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The best kind of correct

It’s no secret that the overlap between “geek” and “pedant” is pretty big. Not all pedants are geeks, but a high percentage of geeks are unapologetic pedants. It makes sense, really. Science and engineering are precise disciplines, where attention to detail and the ability to follow directions exactly are rewarded. So people with a natural proclivity for exactness are often drawn to these subjects. Naturally, if a little of something is good, a whole lot of it must be better! At least, that’s what some geeky pedants seem to think.

The other day I was having a problem. It’s a problem I’m sure we’ve all had at one time or another.  I needed a recursive list of a directory tree, printed out one file per line, with the full path included. OK, I realize I just lost some of you. I promise you though, you won’t need to understand the jargon to get the punchline for this one. Anywho, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make ‘ls’ spit this out. It seemed really simple, but everything I tried wasn’t producing acceptable results.

So I took to Google. I very quickly came across this page at Stack Overflow. This person was asking my exact question. And the second answer made me slap my forehead. It helpfully points out that ‘ls’ is the wrong tool for the job at hand. What I really wanted was ‘find.’ Specifically, this is all I needed to do:

find .

Duh, I knew that. Huge brain cramp there! I was about to close my browser tab and head on my way when I noticed the first answer.  I’m going to quote it here so you can enjoy its craziness:

@OP, if you really want to use ls, then format its output using awk
ls -R /path | awk '
NF&&f{ print s"/"$0 }'

Let me assure you non-technical people out there that even most technical people can’t parse that garbage. What looks like a long string of nonsense characters is in fact part of the ‘awk’ programming language, and while I’m sure there exist plenty of people who can tell at a glance what exactly that is doing, I am not one of them. And I don’t think I’m in the minority here, even among tech professionals.

But the person replying to the question stubbornly stuck to the question asked, which was “How can I get ls to spit out a flat list of recursive one-per-line paths?” Now, to be sure, this could be geek humor here. Geeks often poke fun at their own predilection for pedantry by providing overly-exact answers to simple questions. I have no issues with that at all. But of course that’s not the actual problem here.

The questioner originally marked the “find” answer as correct.  But a later comment insisted that he change it, and mark the gobbledy-gook answer as correct.  Why? Well, if you guessed “pedantry,” you’re paying attention! He complained that the answer marked correct was only the most useful answer, not the objectively correct answer.

In defense of his insanity, he wrote this gem:

this is, objectively speaking, the right answer to the question that you wrote, intentionally or not. Yes, possibly it wasn’t the right answer to the question that you hoped to have written. And while i agree with your bigger point: “when the wise points to the moon, the fool looks at the finger” it is only fair that we minimize the impact of subjectiveness to evaluate correctness, specially when the criteria does not have any possible ambiguity

We gotta minimize that pesky subjectivity dammit! It’s your own fault for asking the wrong question, you deserve to be punished with overly-complex nonsense answers even when there’s a simple answer to the problem you’re experiencing. That’ll teach you to fucking ask imprecise questions! Never mind that if the person asking the question knew about (or remembered, as in my case) the function of the ‘find’ command, he never would have asked this question in the first place!

No, much better to simply pedantically stick to the actual question asked, rather than solve the problem in the most efficient manner. This is akin to a person asking “How do I chop down a tree with a rifle?” and telling him in painstaking detail the best way to do so, rather than simply saying “Actually, what you really want isn’t a rifle, it’s an ax. Or maybe a chainsaw.”

And the hell of it is, the questioner was geekily pedantic enough to actually change the answer marked as “correct.”  Which is why it appears as the first response to the question, and the actual useful answer is second.

In short, fuck both those dudes.


Posted in Miscellaneous.

Craft my ASS

I don’t know when it started, but at some point, video games became all about crafting. Back in the day, crafting in video games was strictly a secondary thing. Sort of like a mini-game almost. And at first, it was kind of fun. Hey, I can go pick this flower, and then chop this tree, and then combine them to make a… something. Hooray! But if you didn’t want to do that, you could almost always ignore that part of the game and just do other stuff.  Such as play the actual game.

Then I guess Minecraft happened. I don’t know for sure, and doing any sort of research is sort of against my personal rules for this site, but I’m going to guess that was one of the first games to go mainstream that focused entirely on the crafting. There isn’t anything else to Minecraft except crafting and survival. And it’s fun as hell! But it’s more of a sandbox than a game, even though it does have a way to “win.”

Since then, games, especially indie games, have become more and more about crafting, to the point where I personally just sunk 40 hours into a game called “Craft the World,” an indie game about dwarves crafting stuff. Lots and lots and lots of useless stuff. That you then have to find places to put. The entire game is nothing but an unlock-able crafting tree full of repetitive iterations of the same basic things. It too has a “win” scenario, which involves opening a portal to another world, where you get to start over.  I quit as soon as I saw that my reward for “finishing” the game was… playing the game again. To be fair, it’s one of those incomplete indie games that you pay to beta test, so improvements may be in store in later versions of the game.

But I didn’t come here to talk about indie games. It’s hard to make fun of crafting in video games by picking on games called “Minecraft” and “Craft the World.”  I mean, hey, what did I think I was getting myself into, right? I can fucking read, I see that word “craft” featured prominently in the titles.

No, I want to bitch about how crafting has bled over into every other game released since Minecraft. Specifically, I want to talk about Far Cry 3. Notice it’s not called “Far Craft 3″ or anything like that. Notice further that it’s not at all an indie game, it’s a big budget title put out by Ubisoft. Presumably it’s part of a franchise, since this is apparently the third game in the series, but I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t played any of the others and, you know, research is verboten.

If you watch the trailer and read comments about the game online, you’re left with the impression that the game is a first person shooter, with support for different play styles. You can choose to focus on stealthy take downs of your enemies, or long range sniping, or you can go the more traditional run-and-gun method of solving all your FPS woes. Your character can be customized by spending skill points in three different skill trees that focus on the different play styles. There are tons of different weapons and upgrades available for purchase.

The backstory is pretty simple.  You and a bunch of friends were vacationing on a tropical island and were captured by pirates. You escaped from the pirate camp, but in the process your brother was killed. Now you have to try to find the rest of your friends and set them free. Meanwhile, the pirates are fighting an eternal war with the natives, so part of the game is all about taking back parts of the islands from the pirates and turning them over to the natives so you can use them as safe houses and bases. It’s pretty free-form and open world, and I’ve heard it described as “Skyrim with guns.” It’s all pretty rad, and after the opening tutorial mission, I was all set to dive right in and start murdering the shit out of pirates.

The first thing I attempted to do once I had full control of my character was change to my other guns. It’s an FPS game, of course I have other guns. You start off with just a .45 pistol, but there’s a store in the very first location where you can purchase other weapons if you wish. Turns out I already owned a few, so, great!  Let’s bust those out.

Well, first of all, it was a nightmare just figuring out how I was supposed to change weapons. Listen closely, developers.  The mouse wheel scrolls through your weapons. This is PC gaming 101. I get that you’re a bunch of lazy shits just doing a quick port from the Xbox, but fuck you if you can’t make this simple, universally accepted modification to your game. Get rid of your awful-ass console radial menu and let me just use the fucking scroll wheel to select my weapons already.

But that wasn’t even the main problem. The main problem was that although I apparently owned a bunch of guns, I was only carrying the one. Why was this? Because out of four weapon quick slots, three of them are locked at the start of the game. This confused the hell out of me, as standard FPS practice is to have 4-6 hot keyed action slots for weapons from the get go. OK, well, I guess I have to do something to unlock these so I can have more than one fucking gun at a time. Fine, what do I have to do?

If you guessed “kill animals and skin them for their hides so you can craft weapon holsters,” you’ve been paying attention! Yes indeed, I just busted my way out of a vicious pirate camp, watched my brother die in front of my eyes, have no idea where my friends are, and am suddenly in the middle of a war between pirates and natives; but what I have to do now is kill some pigs so I can make holsters and ammo bags, so I can kill deer, so I can make bigger bags, so I can have more room for crafting mats, so I can eventually unlock all the weapon slots and make some really big bags so I can get to the FUN FUCKING PART OF THE GAME.

It’s like a four hour cock-block for no goddamn reason. As near as I can tell once you craft all the stupid holsters, pouches, and bags, you can basically stop skinning animals and then you “only” have to collect flowers to make healing syringes and stuff. That doesn’t mean you can stop killing animals, of course. No, like Skyrim, the world contains tons of wildlife, and nearly all of it wants you dead. So you’re still going to be killing wild dogs and boar and tigers and bears for a long time after you don’t need to skin them anymore.

Why on earth anybody thought this was a good idea is beyond me. I’m pretty sure it’s the result of someone saying “Well, crafting in games is a thing now, we need crafting in our game. How should we implement it?” And then, picking the absolute worst possible way to add crafting to an FPS game about killing pirates. Let’s make it nearly impossible to kill any pirates right away, because you can only carry the one gun and hardly any ammo! Then we’ll force you to craft shit you should have just started the game with. You can’t even buy these things in the in-game stores. They can sell you an AK-47, but fuck if they can rig you up a strap to carry it with! Here’s a sniper rifle, but good luck finding some sort of container for the ammo you’ll need to carry around with you. That shit’s a mystery to us natives. Backpacks? What kind of sorcery is this?? We have C4 explosives and land mines, but we’ve never even seen a duffel bag!

It’s awful and annoying and part of a trend that just needs to stop already. Can we just agree to stop shoehorning crafting into every game? Not every game needs a multi-player mode, not every game needs micro-transaction bullshit, and sure as fuck not every game needs goddamn crafting.

Posted in Miscellaneous.

I hate Maine (and myself)

The other day I had to go to Maine to buy clothes. Thing is, I hate Maine. I can’t really say why, either. Maine is a beautiful state. I have relatives who live there. I’m a big Stephen King fan! When people not from the area think of New England, they’re almost certainly thinking of one of two places:  Boston, or a very specific stretch of the Maine seacoast.

Nevertheless, I have this irrational dislike of the state. (For the record, I also dislike Vermont, Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent, Quebec. So maybe what I really hate is leaving New Hampshire by land?)  I can’t explain it better than that. I avoid going there if I can help it, and usually I have little reason to venture there.

But I’m a big guy. I can’t shop in regular stores, they rarely if ever have anything in my size. I’m also tall, which makes things even harder. Even if I can find a 2XL shirt at J.C. Penney or Sears, they’re unlikely to have a 2XLT. And by “unlikely” I mean “Ha ha WTF are you doing here? Go to the fat boy shop already.” Having just recently moved back to the area, I wasn’t sure where the nearest fat boy shop was, however. Google of course knows everything, and it told me the closest one was in Kittery, ME. Just across the border from where I live.

I almost didn’t go. In fact, I put it off for another weekend hoping I’d magically find a closer one. I didn’t, of course. I drove to a few places thinking maybe there would be clothes in my size there, but there wasn’t. So I bit the bullet and entered Maine. There is, in fact, one rational reason for people from New Hampshire to dislike Maine, and that’s the sales tax. New Hampshire doesn’t have one. Maine’s is 5.5%. So just by crossing the border the clothes I wanted to buy suddenly became 5.5% more expensive than they would have been if the store had been located here. And that’s on top of the premium you already pay just for being fat. A shirt that costs $30 at Sears will cost me $45 at the fat boy shop to get it one size bigger. I get how markets work, but it still feels like a tax on being a fatty to me.

There’s another reason I almost didn’t go, though, that has nothing to do with Maine or taxes or prices. It has to do with me. I hate walking into big and tall stores. It’s a walk of shame. It’s admitting defeat. Every time I go in, I think to myself “you need to commit to losing weight so you don’t ever have to come here again.” And every time I don’t. So I put off buying new clothes for as long as I possibly can. I buy as much online as I can, but I have to buy pants in the store because even though men’s clothes are supposedly measured in inches, somehow each brand has a different fucking idea about what an inch is. A certain waist size in one brand might fit well, but that same size in another brand (or even another pair of pants in the same brand) might not fit at all. The last time I bought pants online, I bought three pairs of the exact same jeans, in different colors. One pair fit, the other two did not. I have no idea why.

Thing is, I’m practically fucking petite compared to some of the guys who shop at these stores. The 2XLT shirts I buy are literally the smallest ones most big and tall stores carry. They often go all the way up to 7XL and 8XL. They carry pants with waists a foot bigger than mine. But that doesn’t make me feel any better. If anything, it makes me feel worse. I don’t see myself as being on the small end of “big.”  I just see the range of what might be. The spectrum of shame that awaits.

Everybody is happy in these stores. The clerks smile, they’re friendly and helpful, just like most retail stores. And I hate it. I feel like just being in the store is a shameful experience and it bothers me that others are happy to be there, happy to help me find gigantic clothes to cover my disgusting belly. I’d almost prefer it if they were silent, and just let me fend for myself. Leave the key for the fitting room on a hook by the door or something, so I don’t have to make eye contact with anybody while I’m suffering this indignity.

It doesn’t help that I lie to myself about what size I am. I take jeans into the fitting room I know aren’t going to fit, because I insist this is in fact my size. It’s not. I’m at least two sizes bigger than that. But I will try in vain to find any pair of pants that even comes close to fitting in this smaller size, because having to admit I am not, in fact, this size is devastating. And yet I do it every time, I set myself up for this every time. I remember what size pants I wore in college, and my waist size is 10 inches bigger now. And I was fat then. How ridiculously disgusting must I be now?

So I will put off buying clothes until the last possible minute. I’ll hang on to jeans that have holes in the crotch on the theory that nobody is looking at my fat fucking crotch anyway, right? I can wear them still. Frayed at the ends, that’s ok. Hole in the knee? They’re fine. The worst, though, is when they just flat don’t fit anymore. I’ll squeeze my bulk into them day after day anyway, lying to myself all the while. “This will encourage me to finally lose weight.” It doesn’t. It never has, and never will. All it does is make it hard to breathe, make me feel foolish, and chafe like a motherfucker. But I’d rather suffer actual pain than go to the fat store again. Especially since I know I’ll have to buy a bigger pair.  Again.

But I made my shameful journey to Kittery, in the hated state of Maine, to buy my fatty clothes again and accept my self-punishment. And as always I rediscovered how much better it feels to wear clothes that actually fit. I have to rediscover this every time because between trips I think I purposefully forget it. Because in my head, I don’t deserve to feel comfortable. I should feel bad, because I look bad. It should hurt to be this size.

I know what kind of responses I’m going to get to this. A lot of well meaning people are going to give me all sorts of helpful tips about how I can easily lose weight and not have to go through this anymore. If you’re thinking about doing that, please don’t. I know everything you’re about to say. Really, I do. I’ve lost weight many, many times in the past, I know exactly how to do it. Believe it or not, fat people tend to know way better than skinny people how to lose weight.  We’ve all done it many times! It just doesn’t stick. And yes, I know. “Lifestyle change, not fad diet!”  Duh. We know that too. I sort of feel like “Lifestyle change” is the new “fad diet” at this point. But seriously, were this easy, nobody would struggle with it.

I guess I don’t have a funny punchline for this one. I thought I was working towards one, but… Oh well.


Posted in Miscellaneous.

Just Because…

Well hello there…

Posted in Alex Rodriguez.

Windows Update is bullshit

I just got a new laptop. It’s pretty badass. I even managed to avoid the horrors of Windows 8, pretty much assuring I will be completely skipping this abomination of an OS. Hooray for me!

However, I still had to go through two hours of Windows Update hell. If you’ve ever bought a Windows PC and care even a tiny bit about security (I know, those are contradictions) you know what I’m talking about. Windows Update is maybe the worst designed system for installing system updates I’ve ever seen–and I used to be a Solaris admin.

Here’s how it works. You fire up your brand new computer for the first time, run through the initial setup, and get it connected to the interwebs. Because you are a conscientious user, the first thing you do, even before uninstalling all the cruft the vendor so helpfully installed for you, is fire up Windows Update. It tells you that since the OEM hasn’t updated their Windows image since the second Cleveland administration, you have six billion critical updates. No matter, you know this is how it goes, you click install and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

It takes all week, but eventually it finishes downloading all the updates. Now, to install them! No problem, you had the cash to blow on a nice solid state drive, this will take no time at all. Hahaha, fuck you! That expensive drive is worthless son, all things must slow to a crawl under Windows! So you wait, and wait some more, and finally, after another fortnight, it’s done. You reboot, the updates are installed, and you’re good to go.

But wait, no you’re not! Because if you start up Windows Update again, you will see there are still updates to install. Why is this? Because fuck you, that’s why. It’s not Windows’ job to tell you why there are still updates to install after you installed all the updates, so suck it up, buttercup. Repeat the process of download, install, reboot. Run Windows Update again.


What the hell is this? Who knows. Just install the new updates. Do it plebe! Finally, after this time, you reboot, start Windows Update again, and finally there are no more updates to install. Except there are. Windows just isn’t telling you about them yet. There’s a link on the left that says “Check for new updates.”  If you look at the small text under the bit where it’s telling you there are no new updates, you’ll see that Windows hasn’t actually checked for updates since you first powered on your computer.

You probably think I’m crazy, but this is complete truth. If you click the “check for new updates” link, there is a very high probability that Windows will now discover new updates for you to install. Yes, new updates that either somehow got released in the last two hours you’ve been screwing with this, or that Windows was just not bothering to tell you about before now. Either way, you’d better install them. Do it now!  What are you waiting for?

If you’re lucky, you’re done now. But better check for updates one more time just to be sure. Oh, and also, check out the “Important” updates too, because often those are marked as security patches. Why you’d not want to install a security patch on Windows is beyond me. Those should probably be marked as critical. But whatevs, you’re done now!  Rejoice! That’s two hours of your life you’ll never get back, but at least your PC is as up-to-date as possible. At least until next Tuesday.

Why is this such a gigantic pain in the ass? It’s likely because certain updates aren’t cumulative. That means to get to the latest update, you have to install the previous updates first, in the correct order. This is awful and a solved problem in computing, but Microsoft don’t care. Microsoft don’t give a shit! It’s also possible that certain updates have to install other, unrelated bits of software in order to work, and those programs then need to be updated. Who knows?

I know this is a solved problem, though, because other operating systems have had it solved for a long time. When I install a new Ubuntu Linux system, the first thing I do is this: “sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade”  This updates my system to the latest version of everything. And it does it in about fifteen minutes or so, max. And it does it without a reboot (full disclosure: you will need to reboot to use the new kernel if one was installed.) On RedHat Linux, it’s just “yum update”.  That’s it. I’m assuming on a Mac there’s some colorful piece of software that bounces up and down in the task bar for no reason at all and prompts you to install Safari and iTunes every time it runs even though you don’t want them but haha, the joke’s on you, you’re on a Mac and those things were pre-installed and are even now slowing your expensive computer to a crawl with their awfulness.  But I’m betting the updates at least install in a sane manner.

Posted in Miscellaneous.