Java(Script) and Twine

Has it been over a week since I posted anything? Geez. Well, last week I was suffering some food poisoning (though I did manage to get my Castalia House piece up!), and together with wedding planning, something had to give. I beg your indulgence!

Before my bout, I’d decided to take another shot at something I’ve only thus far barely even touched upon – programming. Because I need another project I don’t have time for. Over the years I’ve picked up bits and pieces of almost inconsequential coding experience – a smattering of HTML at computer camp as a kid, a pinch of Visual Basic in high school, a couple dozen chapters of Learn Python the Hard Way.

It’s always been a dream of mine to make a video game, though I’ve never had the fire required to give up my other hobbies in pursuit of that goal. There have been RPG Maker attempts that were quickly aborted after scope got too out-of-hand and frustration grew.

Not too long ago, I told a software developer friend of mine that I’ve been thinking of trying once more to learn a programming language. One of my issues in the past was that I never really had a solid goal, or concrete projects to keep me interested. I got bored with writing Python scripts that merely asked users for their favorite color or spit out the cube of 9. Perhaps if I were to go into this with the goal of writing some very simple games or programs?

Anyway, my friend listened to me babble about my situation and asked me if I’d heard of Twine, which he suggested might be a good starting point for me if I just wanted to make a game. Simply explained, Twine is an open-source tool that seems best-purposed for creating text-based “non-linear” stories and games.

twine

It publishes to HTML files, so it’s fairly easy to quickly create something and share it. Though Twine does have its own syntax, it also supports HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. You can use conditionals and variables and media files, too. So depending on how deep you want to go, it seems there’s a lot you can do with it.

So far I’ve created two very simple “games” that I was planning to design as smaller elements of a larger game I’d like to make. One is a variation of the game Nim. The other is a riddle game.

I did encounter some frustration with the limits of the native Twine syntax and had to do a lot of debugging, which prompted me to explore JavaScript. I think knowing JS would give me a lot more flexibility in my coding.

I’m not quite sure if or when I’ll proceed with my Twine project, but I would like to continue studying JavaScript. Even if my game is still far off, the coding knowledge and experience can only help me as an IT guy. If I do pump out anything fun, though, I’ll have to host it somewhere and share it with y’all.

That’s about it for now; I started playing Undertale the other day, which I’ve heard is a pretty fast one to get through. Excellent game so far. I’m trudging through Eyes of the Overworld, which pains me to say, for I love Jack Vance. But Cugel is just such a d-bag. I’ve got the first Lensman book on the side, and I’m hoping to get to Larry Niven’s Neutron Star and ERB’s At the Earth’s Core before long.

Ah, if only there were more time!

-Bushi

bushi

Java(Script) and Twine

My Reaction to GOP’s Health Care Reform Proposal (UPDATED)

  • by Gitabushi

Bottom Line Up Front: It isn’t good. But it isn’t as bad as many people are saying. Reforming health care is harder than anyone is admitting.

So is the GOP Congress saying this is the final version of their health care goals? Or is it a transitory law to tide over until final law?

Because while I do, of course, want more market-based reforms, not sure we can get there in one single jump.

There is so much wrong with our current health care system.  It really is just Pre-Paid Health Maintenance Plans. This separates price from cost, which makes things more expensive. Moreover, it punishes those who are cautious with their health, and reward those who are reckless and consume more health care.  Imagine how much it would cost if vehicle fuel were sold under and “insurance” plan where you paid a monthly fee and could use as much as you wanted.  The person who commutes 5 miles a day in a Mazda Miata would be subsidizing the person who drives a Hummer 90 miles every day, takes long trips every weekend, and is a leadfoot.

So the first order of business is to wean the nation away from the current Pre-Paid Health Maintenance plans referred to as “insurance.”  But that’s only the beginning. We need:

  • insurance to pretty much be only catastrophic.
  • retail clinics where RNs triage for need to be seen by PA, who then triages for need for specialist. Basic check an illness isn’t serious for out-of-pocket money.
  • hospitals and doctors to publish prices and full fees for all treatment.
  • a system to allow people to be guinea pigs for new treatments *if they want*, i.e., the rich and the terminal, w/o lawsuit threat.
  • a total reform pharma laws so there aren’t perverse incentives in development, especially patent rules.
  • effort to get bulk of medical care shifted to out-of-pocket, to reduce paperwork overhead, increase competition, and increase choice.
  • plan resolve exploitation of “free” medical care to illegal aliens. At the very least, that means new, robust collection laws. Could also mean ensuring all illegal aliens leave. Can’t reform healthcare w/o it.
  • A cap to end-of-life costs. The tricky part is if you heal the problem, it won’t be the end of life. But when people pay for insurance (even catastrophic), they don’t want to be told a cost restriction prevented them (or their loved one) from getting treatment. We need to get people used to the idea that there is a reasonable amount that others will be willing/able to pay to save a life, but beyond that, the costs should be borne by the family and friends that love them most. Because as in most things in life, there are few easy choices, and with each choice comes drawbacks and other unpleasant consequences.  Part of being an adult is deciding which unpleasant consequence is the easiest for you to accept.

It takes time to get massive, cumbersome health care system to shift to the free market-based solutions. This can’t be done in just a few weeks.  Particularly since there are powerful lobbies that want to prevent market based-solutions from taking away their golden parachutes.

Even worse, the public itself is a huge part of the problem.  We are never going to improve health care until we get people to grasp Medicaid doesn’t improve health outcomes. Of course, this also needs to be understood by people who have enough money to never be on Medicare. We need everyone to understand that just having medical coverage is not health. Health insurance is an illusionary security blanket that people want, and will give up rights and money to the government to get it. That illusion is part of what is making it so politically difficult to repeal Obamacare & reform healthcare system.

Imagine they repealed Obamacare completely yesterday.  The first thing that would happen is the news organizations would be screaming about all the people who are no longer covered. They would be doing their best to stir up panic.  Repealing Obamacare wholesale would push most of the population to consider (and perhaps embrace) Single Payer, just to have that illusion of security.  It would be a political disaster.

The most likely outcome is Democrats would take back Congress in 2018. I do not have confidence that President Trump would veto Single Payer with such an obvious mandate; he doesn’t have any history of commitment to free market principles, and pretty clearly seems to want to be remembered as a President that served his people. Giving them Single Payer when they seem to want it would satisfy his ego.

So we can’t just throw 10s of millions of citizens into a free market system. That would be a political disaster that would most likely lead to Single Payer.

What if we go back to the previous system?

Was anyone happy with the previous system?  It was still a Pre-Paid Health Maintenance system. We still had spiraling costs because price and cost were not obviously linked. Democrats would demagogue the crap out of it.  It seems like it would end up in the same place as no plan at all: Democrats take Congress, and we get Single Payer.

So I’m okay with some incremental changes for now, or a transition plan. But yeah: I’m not happy at all if this is their final plan.

The Good Points:

Right now, I think there is no personal mandate. The mandate is to insurance companies to provide to anyone. They had to keep a penalty in so that people wouldn’t wait until sick before buying insurance (which destroys the benefit of risk pools). But the penalty is from the insurance company for letting your insurance lapse, not from the federal government for not buying insurance.  That’s slightly better.

Still, I agree with Ben Shapiro’s conclusion: “you’ve actually created a gradual cementing of key elements of Obamacare.”  They just made Obamacare into GOPCare. But how do we *get* to market-based health care system with *real* reform w/o losing Congress and getting Single Payer?

My best suggestion is to spend the next three years in preparation: write legislation that encourages Retail Clinics.  Pass Tort Reform.  Deport enough illegal aliens that the rest self-deport, lowering the stress to the ER system and the cost to the hospital system.  Pass laws requiring hospitals to post prices, so competition can begin.  Then right after the 2020, then drop the big law that gets rid of any health insurance except catastrophic, caps heroic efforts, establishes tax-free health savings accounts, and pushes all the previous preparatory market-based reforms to 11.

Then sit back and demagogue to the hilt all the successes and improved health & cost outcomes.  This is one area the GOP always fails: they seem to not have a plan to sidestep the Democrats’ ally in the mainstream news media industry.  Trump has shown them how to use social media to get directly to the people; the GOP Congress needs to spend the next three years before they drop the big Reform Law preparing their PR blitz.

One other thing: Perhaps grandfather in anyone over 50?  It is easier to wean the young from government health care, since they are mostly healthy, by and large.

Side Note:

I had little confidence in Ryan since the Omnibus last year. I had little confidence in him. He’s like meh to accidentally good. And yet, he’s *still* better than Boehner, and Boehner was *still* better than Pelosi.

I think this stinky turd of a reform bill is more due to the House than the Senate.  So we need to focus on finding ways to express our displeasure to the House. The best way is to get them out of office.  But we need to primary them with strong GOP candidates. NOT give Congress to the Democrats.

Final thought:

I maybe skipped over too many steps. What I’m trying to do is figure out how to make free market solution politically viable.  I don’t see how to get there from here, right now. And I’m willing to give the GOP more time to prep the battlespace to make it easier to pass a successful (and thus, lasting) free market solution to our health care system.

 

My Reaction to GOP’s Health Care Reform Proposal (UPDATED)

PC joy and pain

Men like to build and create. I’ve never been profoundly interested in or skilled at carpentry or stonework or automobile mechanics or, uh, spacklecraft. I do like to cook, but I’ve never constructed any kind of pastry.

I also do a little bit of gardening (mostly herbs), but I have kind of a brown thumb. Plants under my care have probably a 50-50 shot of surviving.

My creative tendency has been most manifest in my PC building efforts. The first time I built a computer, I made some unfortunate mistakes that wound up costing me. But when I got the thing working, man. Such a feeling of satisfaction – making something that not everyone can, and then putting it to good, honest use.

This second time I fared better on the front end, but over the past two or three weeks I’ve been getting a string of game crashes and blue screens of death. These kinds of setbacks can be profoundly disappointing and frustrating; computers are complex machines with all kinds of moving parts. You can look at dump files and event logs and errors messages, and sometimes you’ll be able to quickly or luckily diagnose the problem.

Often, however, the root cause of your troubles is elusive. Is it a driver? Bad RAM? Corrupted system files? Faulty PSU/not enough juice? Hard Disc error? Apps that just don’t want to cooperate with your operating system?

At least I’ve discovered a number of useful diagnostic utilities and system tools. System File Checker, Driver Verifier, Windows Memory Diagnostics, and Memtest86+ in particular strike me as good tools for any IT Guy or Gal to be aware of.

I also can’t overstate the importance of taking the time to check manufacturer websites for updated drivers, and becoming familiar with the Device Manager. I thought I had updated everything, but over the weekend I found that I had an old ethernet driver. Yesterday I checked out the support webpage for my motherboard and found that I was way behind on my BIOS version. That was a little more tricky to update, but relatively painless.

I haven’t been able to pinpoint any bad hardware so far, though I was suspicious of the RAM and the SSHD for a while. After I updated my BIOS yesterday I played the Witcher 2 for a few hours and didn’t get any BSOD or game crashes, so that’s a good sign. Fingers crossed I’ve stumbled upon the solution to my woes. Having a gaming machine that won’t run games is the absolute pits.

On Monday I couldn’t run Heroes of the Storm for more than a couple minutes without crashing to desktop, and I was branded with my very first “leaver” status. I’m apprehensive, but tonight I’ll give it a go and see if the BIOS update did it. Can an outdated BIOS cause other drivers to crash programs (my HOTS crash event log entry seemed to indicate a GPU driver-related incident)? I guess I’ll find out.

-Bushi

bushi

PC joy and pain

Troubleshooting: Errant Mouse

Alternate title: How many IT guys does it take to fix a mouse?

Things have been quiet here because I’ve been hustling at work. Normally the morning hours before I clock in are prime for busting out some nerdy blog materials, but this month we’ve been rolling out Windows 10 ahead of the free upgrade cutoff at the end of July. So I’ve been starting work an hour earlier and can’t bring myself to come into the office at 7:00 to write. Alas and alack, but tis only temporary, my friends.

An interesting thing happened yesterday morning – a user’s mouse decided to stop working. Now this happens on occasion, and normally unplugging the usb connector and replugging it into another port will do prompt the machine to come to its senses. This time, though, it just wasn’t doing it.

mouse

I tried another Microsoft mouse (our standard) and same thing. I’d get the little sound effect indicating the device was detected, and the underside LED would light up for a few seconds. But then it would go dark and the computer would continue to ignore the mouse’s presence.

Standard restart didn’t help. Device manager showed that the mouse driver was showing an error and also was being placed under “Other Devices” for some reason.

As I was juggling some upgrades with a limited timeframe, I escalated it to my boss and jumped back and forth between moving along the Windows 10 stuff and looking over his shoulder.

The mouse and keyboard software that he downloaded from Microsoft didn’t do the trick. Remoting into the affected system did allow for us to use mouse functionality, though, so didn’t have to navigate everything with the keyboard.

Eventually we ran to the server room and rummaged up an old Logitech trackball mouse we had leftover from a former left-handed user. It worked.

We tried a handful of other tactics to troubleshoot the regular mouse. Uninstalling the driver and letting it reinstall didn’t work. Nor did prompting the system to update the driver.

Eventually my colleague got in and took a look. He tried manually changing the driver from one of the Microsoft ones to the generic “HID – compliant mouse” driver. Presto.

Capture

We then rotated the mouse to each USB port to associate them all with this driver. Not too glamorous, but seems to have gotten the job done for now.

Curious that the Microsoft mouse driver should be erroring out randomly. Perhaps a Windows update-related failure? If future issues arise or if we return to this sometime, perhaps I’ll try copying some healthy drivers from another machine to see if this was a case of corrupted files or some such.

-Bushi

bushi

 

Troubleshooting: Errant Mouse

It’s alive

About 5 years ago I came back stateside from Japan, and that winter I received a nice little chunk of change from the tax and pension refunds I’d claimed from my years of working over there. I put some of that money to use in building my  first home-and-hand-assembled PC. It’s served me well throughout the years and still does a serviceable job where it counts, but with all the crazy graphics-intensive games coming out these days and the prospect of marriage and family-building in the not too distant future, I figured now’s probably a good time to make me a new system. Also 5 years is a decent life for many computer parts, and who wants to wait for something to crap out?

I started planning my build a couple months ago and was pleased to see that Providence or God had ordained for major new graphics card releases this summer. Not just new graphics cards, but big jumps. nVidia’s 10 series has been especially impressive – with the Gtx 1070 leading the pack in terms of popularity and cost for value. AMD’s new RX 480 also attracted my eye for a time, but the power draw problems that were reported early and briefly, along with my keen eye on Newegg’s Twitter feed prompted me to go for the 1070. All the new cards have been selling out quickly as demand has far outstripped supply thus far, but I was able to snag a Gigabyte Gtx 1070 G1 Gaming GPU a few minutes after Newegg tweeted out that they had just gotten some supply in. As of this posting it’s sold out, and has been for a while.

$430 was more than I had initially wanted to spend on a video card, but dang. Look at that thing.

They say you get what you pay for, so. We’ll see. My displays are only 1080p, so this is really more power than I need, but I’m future proofed and I expect for some time now I’ll be able to make all games my…subservient wenches…with maxed out graphics and performance settings.

I didn’t take a ton of pictures as I was building it (or after the fact), but I did have a few takeaways. First, here are the major parts I used:

Case: NZXT S340 Black Steel

Chipset: ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming

GPU: Gigabyte GTX 1070 G1 Gaming

CPU: Intel Core i5-6600K

CPU Cooling: Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO

Storage: Seagate 2TB SSHD 7200 RPM

RAM: G.SKILL Ripjaws DDR4 PC4-24000 16GB (8GBx2)

Optical: N/A (LG External DVD R/RW)

OS: Windows 7 license > Windows 10

Having built that one system in the past, and having tinkered a little bit inside it and others subsequently, I have a working familiarity with computer innards. But one thing this build taught me is that there are a variety of parts that interact and connect with each other in different ways. As the tech changes, some parts morph in form and function. So if you haven’t worked with a particular component before, even if you know the basics, you still need to read the instructions and learn.

  • For instance, I thought it would be easiest to install the CPU and cooler on the motherboard before mounting it inside the case. That’s what I remember doing last time. But the aftermarket Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO was difficult to attach to the motherboard without having it mounted. I was showing my girlfriend the parts and wound up using her here for extra hands.
  • On that note, I found myself applying the thermal compound to the top of the CPU and getting ready to plop down the cooler, and wasn’t sure which way to orient it and the fan. I just picked a random orientation and lucked out; the fan should be pushing air to the top of the case, which can then exit out a vent. But there was no indication in the spartan directions as to how to determine the best way to point the thing.
  • It’s also apparently the norm for this cooler to block one slot of RAM. So if you’re planning on using it, you may not have the option of employing four sticks of memory.
  • Some of the case cables threw me for a little bit of a loop. There was a black cable with a blue connector that was labeled something like “GLAN 30V.” This is the USB 3.0 cable, that plugs into the corresponding pins on the mobo. The two preinstalled case fans also both connected to a molex adapter. Unfortunately it was kind of shoddy, and when I tried to plug it into one of the PSU’s molex connectors, one pin corresponding to one of the fans would connect and the other, slightly misaligned, would push itself backwards and a little out of the molex adapter, rendering it useless. Luckily I was able to just unattach the fans from the adapter and plug them directly into the motherboard’s “Case fan 1” and “Case fan 2” slots.
  • Note, you need to connect the PSU cables before you install it into this case; there’s not enough maneuvering room inside the cavity to plug the stuff in afterwards. So that had to be pulled out and reinstalled.
  • Likewise that little metallic frame that serves as a metallic barrier between the back of the case and the piece of the mobo with all the ports (is there an official name for that thing?) – that needs to be pressed in from inside the case. So if you’ve mounted your motherboard already…you have to unmount, install, and remount. Was kind of a pain and made me anxious about handling the motherboard so much.
  • After everything was connected, I had indicator lights on the chipset lighting up, so it was getting power. But pressed the power button and…no post, no nothing. That is always frustrating! I attached a speaker, but wasn’t getting any beeps, so that stressed me out for a couple of minutes. Fortunately I had a suspicion that payed off:
  • There are two connectors on the motherboard that need PSU cable hookups. One is a large connector labeled something like EATX Power or EATX 24 or something like that. (I think it’s 24 pins) Then there’s a smaller connector above the CPU called EATX 12V. I had plugged in a regular VGA connector (I think they used to be labeled PCIe?) from the PSU, which had a 6-pin piece and a 2-pin piece. It was a pain in the ass to manipulate into position and plug in. My research indicated that some motherboards (in the past or different models) would include a CPU Power slot, labeled as such. So I guessed this may be the same thing here, and exchanged the VGA connector for the PSU connector labeled CPU, which was a similar deal except it had two 4-pin pieces to plug in. This, too, was a pain in the ass to connect. But did it, replugged and pushed power, and bam, it posted.

Putting these things together is quite satisfying, but unless I get a job that includes a lot more hardware assembly, I don’t anticipate ever being able to blow through a build without indecision or uncertainty. For the time being, I have had enough of slots and connectorz.

-Bushi

bushi

 

 

 

 

It’s alive

Passwords, casuals, and TD

Every time I check back in I realize I haven’t posted in over a week. Where’s the time going? Probably to games; not gonna lie.

I was going to lament that most of my game time has been spent on casual games of late – Heroes of the Storm with friends and lots of mobile diddling. Is Hots really a casual game, though? Probably to most MOBA players it is, and though we’re rocking Rank 1 at the moment, it’s not like we’re on the competitive scene. I guess this one’s up in the air. One can debate whether our preferred 3 tank core team build makes us pros or cassie “try-hards” (Magnataur’s new favorite word).

As for mobile, I’ve been on and off with Soda Dungeon – t’is a silly place, but I really dig the concept. I’m not sure how the revenue stream is for these types of games, which are free to play with very optional IAP and a modicum of ads, but they make me happy.

I’ve also been able to download and once again enjoy Staunch Defense, one of my first mobile Tower Defense games. It was inexplicably banished to the nether for a period of time and I couldn’t retrieve it from my purchased apps. But lo, it has returned.

staunch
Budget brilliance.

If you’re into TD games, don’t let the Microsoft Paint-looking graphics turn you off. This one has a lot of character and variety, and it’s probably one of the deepest TDs I’ve played. Mechanics-wise, that is; there’s not really any story to speak of. It’s on the other end of the pool from Bloons TD, which is a great entry-level title for the genre (which I got my girlfriend hooked on last week), but doesn’t offer much progression or many different strategies to play with. Maybe that has changed has the series has grown, though. I don’t believe I’ve ventured past the first one or two, and I just saw Bloons TD 5 in the app store.

Ah, casual games. I suppose none of that’s really a true waste of time so long as it’s enjoyable. And watching monkeys pop balloons — excuse me, I mean bloons — can be quite enjoyable. And at least I’m plodding along with my Iceling dynasty. But the “To-Play” list is getting longer and longer. Pillars of Eternity and Divine Divinity: Original Sin have been sitting there for too long. Then we’ve got Vampire the Masquerade to finish, classics like Suikoden 2 on the back, back, back-burner, and things like Undertale coming out of left field. 94/100 metascore? Come on, that’s not fair.

I’m going to need to take a few weeks of vacation one of these years to catch up.

In the tech world, I’m really liking LastPass. Do you know it? It’s a password manager with a lot of useful features. Basically you sign up and create one master password to rule them all – make it a good one! Then you can store all your other passwords inside, and also create secure notes for yourself. There are extensions for all the major browsers so that you can let LastPass pull in your login info and then automatically plug it in for you in the future. It can even generate random, secure passwords for you. Since you don’t need to remember them anymore, any gobbledy-gook will do. Who has time for remembering a buttload of passwords these days, with all these enticing games to play?

 

-Bushi

bushi

Passwords, casuals, and TD