Java 8, or Oracle finally catches up to .NET Framework 3.0

Java LogoSo Oracle is finally releasing Java 8... sometime.  Since my work is pretty aggressive about upgrading Java versions, I might just get a chance to use it, and I'm actually pretty psyched because there are some cool new features.

In this post, I'm going to cover the new stuff in both Java 7 and 8 that you'll actually want to use on a regular basis.

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Applying "indie" principles to "trad" games

This is another good gaming post I've salvaged and cleaned up from my old blog.  Independent games are breaking a tremendous amount of new ground in RPG design but most gamers still play the old standards: D&D, White Wolf, etc. If you like what indie games do but still love traditional tabletop RPGs, what can you do?  As it turns out, lots!

These are some principles you can use to spice up your traditional RPG experience.  I'll be mostly using D&D as an example, they should apply to any game.  And note that these are techniques I use - they're not just theoretical.

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Music Plug #2: Camphouse, Maslanka

This is the second in a series of music plugs. I'd originally planned on making Brahms the second post, and I'll still get around to him, but I've recently played a couple of really powerful pieces by two modern wind ensemble composers, David Maslanka and Mark Camphouse, and felt that both of them deserved some more attention.

The biggest problem with good wind ensemble literature is that if you're not in a top amateur group  you tend to not be exposed to it.  Wind ensembles always play second fiddle to orchestras (if you'll pardon the pun).  They don't have the same dynamic and color range.  Nobody uses them for movie soundtracks.  But they can produce a bolder and in some ways more masculine sound than their stringed cousins - at least that's how Sousa characterized the difference.  And the two men I'm going to feature today use that difference to create some really unique sounds.

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[disem]Power[ment] Fantasy

I'm a lucky dude.  I present as a fit, able-bodied, middle-class, straight white man.  Pretty much anywhere I go I am the dominant paradigm.  I'm playing the game of life on easy mode.  I have no fear of time machines.

A lot of people use video and role-playing games to escape their lives; to be more awesome versions of themselves.  That's great.  It can be wonderfully therapeutic.  But when I do it, I get bored.  What do I have to escape from?  I live a charmed life!  No, for me, games are an opportunity to explore; to step into another life; to walk a few miles in another person's shoes.  They're an opportunity to experience different expectations and responsibilities, to think differently, to see what life is like without some of the privilege I take for granted.  They're an exercise in empathy.

My current Apocalypse World character is that, turned up to eleven - and I think I've bitten off about as much as I can chew with this one.

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Comparing apples to orange trees

So there's this bit of stupid, arguing that (at least in Great Britain) electric cars do not have smaller carbon footprints than gas- (er, petrol-) powered ones.  The author does the following mental gymnastics:

2011 Chevy Volt
The electric car - hero or heel?

First he takes the energy consumption of a compact petrol-burning car (55/43 kWh per 100km city/highway).  Then he takes estimates of electric vehicle performance from two other studies, which give them at ~16kWh/100km and ~20kWh/100m.  Finally he claims that since fossil fuel power production is only about 36% efficient, those numbers are really 48 and 60 kWh/100km -  worse than the compact car!

This is purported to show that there is no real benefit at all to driving the electric vehicle. Good thing there are holes in his analysis large enough to drive a Chevy Volt through.

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