Depression and Robin Williams

Published on Monday, August 18, 2014 By Draginol In Health & Medicine

Awhile back I wrote about depression. I wasn’t really intending to revisit the topic despite the apparent suicide of actor/comedienne Robin Williams but some of the analysis I’ve seen about depression written by people who clearly have no personal experience with it has motivated me to talk about it a bit.

Depression is a physiological disease. Its severity is different from person to person who suffers it.  It is not about being in a bad mood.  When one is suffering from an “episode” which can last hours or months being alive is painful.

If you haven’t experienced try to imagine some life event that made you feel utter despair and anguish.  Now, imagine that feeling lasting months and not having a specific origin. That is what depression is.

Depression is treatable but anyone saying it can be “Beaten” has no idea what they’re talking about.  It can be managed but it isn’t beaten.  People with severe depressive disorder tend to have a variety of tried and true personal techniques they use to mitigate the worst of the effects.  In my experience, hope for better days is a key tool in our arsenal.

When things are particularly dark, the inevitable question arises, “Why go on?" It becomes particularly dicey when it gets hard to convince oneself that it isn’t going to get better.

Robin Williams related that he was unhappy having to do roles like Mrs. Doubtfire II in order to “Get a paycheck”.  He also had been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  This combination can be devastating to someone who’s day to day life is already agony.

I’ve talked to a few other people who suffer depression and a very common thread is that when they have an depressive episode (think of depression as being related to epilepsy or migraines, these episodes are often random) they remind themselves that “Well, when A, B and C happen then I can rest for a bit..”  But Robin Williams got news that indicated that there was no light at end of the tunnel. That, for himself, agony was here today and agony was going to be there tomorrow.

Thankfully medication really is getting better. Treatments are getting better.  But anyone suggesting that depression can be “beaten” has no idea what they’re talking about.  Maybe sometime they’ll figure out the physiological cause of it (that would be wonderful). But for now, drug treatment and learning coping techniques (like mindfulness) are the best we’ve got.

7 things to know about Major Depressive Disorder

Published on Monday, August 18, 2014 By Draginol In Health & Medicine

For most of my adult life, I’ve suffered from what I euphemistically have described as melancholy. And like most people, I mistakenly considered it to be a “mood” as opposed to a serious physiological issue.  If I just did X, then I’d feel better. 

When the issue began to seriously affect my life, I readily accepted “advice” that included “appreciate what you have”, “look on the bright side”, “try to reduce stress from your life”, “don’t sweat the small stuff”, etc.

However, that type of advice is about as relevant as telling someone who suffers from severe migraines or epilepsy that they can “cure it” by changing their attitude about it. 

Understanding what depression actually is

Depression isn’t caused by external events.  Not the type I’m talking about anyway.  Obviously if enough bad things happen to you, you can be pretty down.  But major depressive disorder is an event that occurs in the brain where your serotonin levels drop very low.  Because the symptom of it is simply being in an extremely “down mood”. Unfortunately, people who suffer this are inclined to try to just push themselves through it which only serves to exacerbate it.

In video game terms, if one’s mental well-being can be described as mana, then everything we do each day results in actions that give or take a bit of that mana.  A bad event, like a death or a divorce will take away a lot of mana.  What makes MDD so serious is that it is a largely random event that essentially drops your mana to near zero. Suddenly, those day to day events that might not be that big of a deal become potentially life threatening (or sanity threatening).

For example, some people talk about seasonal depressive disorder.  I think a better way to think of it is that during certain times of the year, the conditions result in a steady trickle of mana. For most people, this might be no big deal or maybe a mild case of be somber.  On the other hand, if you are unlucky enough to have an MDD event around this time, that steady mana trickle can take you to a very very dark place.

There is no cure, there is only management

Being an engineer, I tend to focus on solutions. The idea I couldn’t “solve” depression seemed ludicrous.  Throughout my 20s I had a mantra: “The cure for the blues is achievement.”  I made an ambitious bucket list to work towards by the time I was 40.

And so 40 hit and I had done everything I had hoped to do by then. My family life was wonderful. I had beautiful, wonderful wife of nearly 20 years. 3 healthy, happy children. A beautiful home. More money than I could ever need. My book had been published by Random House and was at every book store I went to. Good physical health. Lots of friends. Good support network. Awesome job.

But accomplishment has nothing to do with depression. Depression doesn’t care. It’s a physical disorder.  It’s like suggesting that someone with diabetes just needs to get a big promotion at work and suddenly they’ll be cured.

Depression doesn’t make people any more sensitive

Having talked to other people who are in a similar situation, one of the most frustrating aspects is that many people think that those with depression are just more sensitive or that you need to be careful what you say around them.   Again: Depression is NOT caused by external factors. 

Just as depression can’t be cured by good events, it can’t be caused by bad events. It is not caused by some relative saying something rude or getting a mean email or some Facebook argument. 

The only time external factors become an issue is right after an MDD event has occurred that has brought your mana down to zero. Then it matters and the onus is on us to understand that and manage it.

How to manage it

Once I began thinking of depression as a physical issue, I was able to start effectively researching ways of managing it.  Here are the techniques I’ve learned over the past 3 years (I’m 43 now, it was 40 when I finally accepted that there was no magic accomplishment bullet).

None of these things will “cure” it. This is simply managing it so that you don’t go into “negative mana”:

 

  1. Mindfulness.  This means focusing on the moment. MDD events tend to cause people to dwell on everything that they imagine is bad. “I’m wasting my life”, “I’m not living up to expectations”, “Why am I still alive? What’s the point?”, “Nothing is worth doing anymore”.  You can’t talk yourself out of these things at that moment. Instead, you just need to distract yourself and focus on the moment.  For me, that means something as simple as taking a peek at the conservatory in the house at the lizards and watching them do what lizards do (answer: Not much).

    Mindfulness does NOT mean: Going for a walk, exercising, reading a book, etc.  It means find something around and focus on it for a bit. The simpler the better.
  2. Deconditioning. Where I work, I have a standing policy on “brain times”. We only care about what accomplish in the bigger scheme of things. We don’t care if you’re accomplishing it at 2:30pm on a Wednesday. If you need to take a brain break (defined as: working from home and at 2:30pm you instead read a book or do something in your garden because you’ve had “an event” recently then do it).  

    Deconditioning is, by far, the hardest thing to do because MDD comes with “I’m not living up to other people’s expectations” and therefore it makes it even harder to force yourself to just not do something that requires mana even if it’s in the middle of a work day. 

    I still struggle with this a lot and I own my own company. Yet, middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday I will force myself to read through a contract or some proposal or status report or some other thing that sucks the life out of me simply because it’s a work day in the afternoon. But I’m getting much better at simply rescheduling things so that I either spend that time doing something I enjoy (like writing code) or something unrelated (reading a book, playing with the dog, whatever).
  3. Drugs. There’s no way around this. SSRIs and related drugs are a life saver. Find ones that work for you and stick to them. Yea, it sucks to have to take something every day forever (until they do find a cure). But I already take a multivitamin.
  4. People. How you deal with people in this situation depends on if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. I’m an extrovert so I tend to enjoy being around people most of the time. I gain mana from socializing. But introverts lose mana from socializing.  So if you’ve had an event, deal with the people issue appropriately. You don’t go flying with a severe ear infection and you shouldn’t go present at a company meeting if you’re an introvert and you’ve recently had a MDD event (reschedule! Yes, DO IT).
  5. The right job. People say “Life is short” and proceed to live as if they’re immortal.  I had a financial advisor friend who joked that if I quit “messing around” I could be worth 9 to 10 figures instead of “merely” 8.  That gets back to the obvious: Having money has very little affect on MDD. MDD doesn’t care.  Epilepsy doesn’t go away if you have a lot of money either.   Instead, the right job means having a job that provides as many “mana generating” opportunities as possible with the fewest number of “mana absorbers” present.

    Where I work, we have an in-house fitness trainer, a nutritionist and (again, since hitting 40) it is forbidden to have anything resembling “crunch”. If someone is working a lot of hours, they’re asked if they’re doing it because they enjoy what they’re working on versus because they have some sense of obligation.  If it’s the latter, it’s discouraged and we can discuss the underlying issues.  A big part of this is employee retention.  Working with people you know and care about for many years is extremely helpful. 

    Having an environment where people feel there’s a lot of flexibility to learn and do new things over your career (tired of concept art? How about game design? Or how about cinematics? There’s time to learn).  At the same time, it also means having a lower stress environment where people are less likely to have anxiety or not get along as a result.
  6. Diet and Exercise.  These aren’t cures. But holy cow, making sure I am not eating crap can go a long way.  I love my mochas in the morning (they really help me) but I’ve moved away from fast food and the other garbage I used to ingest and just feel better. Poor diet is more like a drip drip drip to mana.  Similarly, it’s not so much that exercise will make you happy as much as inactivity is a constant drip drip drip to mana.
  7. Accepting what it is. Last but not least is accepting what MDD is. It’s a physical issue that has no simple cure. It is not some weakness in character. It is not a failure on your part to appreciate what you have.  It’s just as physical as epilepsy or diabetes or some other physical ailment.
    The only difference between MDD and any other ailment is that the symptoms of an MDD event come in the form misery that, if unmanaged, becomes utter despair that can be very dangerous.

 

I hope this helps others. It has taken me some years to get to this point.  Until recently, I’ve really not talked about this outside my family and a few very close friends.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot of people out there facing these same challenges.

Most people who know me know me to be a pretty happy person. That’s because I am a happy person much of the time. Just like people can be very healthy until they have the flu, I am happy until I have an MDD event that requires me to have some care in how I manage it.

My ranting Review of Surface Pro 3

Published on Sunday, August 17, 2014 By Frogboy In Personal Computing

I’ve had nearly every Microsoft Surface they’ve made.  Surface RT, Surface Pro 2 and now the Surface Pro 3.

The original Surface was really just a technology demo. You couldn’t really do real work with it.

The Surface Pro 2 was the first version of the Surface that could, in theory, be used for something useful. Realistically, the Surface Pro 2 was only useful as a work machine when hooked up with a real monitor, keyboard and mouse.  Its weight to screen size ratio made it largely useless as a tablet and its awkward screen ratio made it hard to use as an Ultrabook. 

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The Surface Pro 2 was mainly useful when hooked up to a real keyboard, monitor, and mouse.

However, with the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has started to create something very interesting and useful.  The Surface Pro 3 is now useful enough that I can now recommend it over any Ultrabook on the market (including the various HP and Lenovo ultras out there).  It is almost as good as an iPad at being a tablet but is still held back by the cluster that is Windows 8.

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Surface Pro 2 (left) vs. Surface Pro 3 (right)

 

Separating the amazing hardware from the shitty OS

I love Windows 8. Not as a user but as an entrepreneur.  Windows 8 has made Stardock more money than every other version of Windows combined when it comes to our desktop enhancement software.  Windows 8 made Start8, ModernMix, Launch8 possible. But we’d all be better off if they’d never needed to be made. And make no mistake, if you’re reading this and have Windows 8, you should buy those 3 programs right now if you intend to use Windows 8 for productivity purposes.   Remember this: When you read me bashing Windows 8, know this: No individual has benefited more from Windows 8 than I have.  I’d rather the world have a better Windows experience than to make another cent off the crappiness of Windows 8.

For me, the Threshold (see what I did there?) of whether Windows 9 is a good OS is it makes our software obsolete. If it doesn’t, they failed. 

Let me put it right out there: Windows 8 is terrible. Terrible.

Windows 8.1 is significantly better but it is still awful compared to Windows 7 as a desktop OS and still embarrassing as a tablet OS compared to iOS.  Windows 8 is so incompetent, from a design perspective, that anyone involved in the decision side of its UX work should be fired.  Anyone who thought the Charms bar and the left-side task thing was a good idea has no business in this industry. Not to be an age-ist but I can almost imagine it all being designed by some cocky little 25 year old in Redmond who has never had to do any real work with a computer.

Just thinking about Windows 8 makes me pissed. Anyone who reads my blogs knows I rarely swear. But Windows 8 just makes my blood boil.

Despite the shittiness of Windows 8, Surface Pro 3 is quite remarkable. They’ve done an amazing job despite the bone headed decisions made with Windows 8.

Surface Pro 3 vs. the MacBook Air

I see these comparisons everywhere.   It’s a fair comparison because they do compete for the same market.  The Surface Pro 3 hardware is superior to the MacBook Air 13.  I have both.  But if I have to do actual work, I end up with the MacBook Air 13. That’s mainly because of the usefulness of MacOS vs. Windows 8. 

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The Surface Pro 3 is better than the MacBook Air from a hardware pov but Windows 8…sigh.

For example, on Windows, the touchpad stuff is handled by the hardware vendor’s custom driver. I kid you not. It’s not an OS thing.  It should be but it is what it is.  That’s why Stardock hasn’t already fixed this blatantly broken part of the OS. We get asked a lot.  Why can’t we just use 4 fingers on our touchpad and switch between full screen sessions? Because every manufacturer writes their own touchpad driver.  Seriously. Again: Makes my blood boil.

On my MacBook Air, I can use 4 fingers and quickly slide between various full-screen sessions.  That means if I have Word in one window, Excel in another, a web browser in another, I can quickly move between them with a simple slide of my fingers –  on the MacBook Air.  In fact, on my MacBook Air, I run Parallels (a Stardock partner) that emulates Windows 8 as one of my full screen sessions. Parallels does an amazing job of making Windows 8 tolerable and it runs great on a MacBook Air.

Meanwhile, my experience on Windows 8 on my Surface Pro can’t hold a candle.  Want to switch between apps? I can either Alt-Tab or I can use my finger on the left side of the screen to bring up the crappy Windows 8 Metro task list and then pick what I want. I thought this was a touch device.

You’d think they’d encourage switching seamlessly back and forth between apps using touch. Unfortunately,  gesturing left means bringing up the task list and gesturing from the right brings up the useless Charms bar.

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The dumbest UI design in UI history. Not hyperbole. Try to think of a dumber idea than the Charms bar. If you can, post it in the comments area. Reminder: Devices = Print.

Ultimately, when I have to recommend a “ultra” portable laptop, I have to go with the MacBook Air. Which is a shame because the Surface Pro 3 is better except for Windows 8. It’s like the Microsoft Surface team found a time machine, went to the future and used future tech to make the Surface Pro and brought it back but was forced (at gun point one assumes) to put Windows 8 on it.

Surface Pro 3 vs. iPad

The Surface Pro 3 is a better tablet than the iPad from a hardware point of view. It’s not even close. It is my preferred device for reading websites.  The Surface Pro 3 screen is simply amazing. and the actual tablet itself is just outstanding. I love it. Unfortunately, hardware isn’t the whole story.  The Surface Pro lacks a lot of software.

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Surface Pro 3 makes a pretty good tablet provided you can get past Windows 8

If you listen to Microsoft fanboys the argument always goes like this “Do you really need 2 million apps when everyone uses the same hundred apps?” Let’s talk about that:

  • There is no Pulse News app for Windows 8
  • There’s no Control4 (home automation) app for Windows 8
  • There’s no Google Maps or Google Earth app for Windows 8
  • There’s no Tivo app for Windows 8
  • There’s no Amazon Window-Shop app for Windows 8 (and their regular Amazon app is weak)
  • There’s no IMDB app for Windows 8
  • The Calendar app can’t integrate Google Calendar (or at least, not in any reasonable way I’ve found) [and seriously, how can you make a calendar app that isn’t interoperable with Google calendar in 2014?!]
  • Dropbox doesn’t integrate into Office on Windows 8 (does fine on Office for iPad) so I can’t look through my Dropbox folders easily.
  • There’s no LinkedIn for Windows 8
  • There’s no official Google Drive app for Windows 8 and you can’t use Google Drive as file destination via Office (which you can on Office for iPad)
  • There’s no Hearthstone Windows 8 (Metro) version
  • There’s no Yelp app for Windows 8
  • There’s no Amazon Instant Video app for Windows 8
  • and on and on and on.

And even if you count the apps that are technically available for Windows 8 such as eBay, Mint, OpenTable, Urban Spoon, etc. many of these are just the mobile web versions packaged as a Metro container.

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The iPad Air is better as a tablet than the Surface Pro 3 mainly because of the apps available. The Surface Pro 3 hardware is substantially better.

As a result, it makes it hard to recommend the Surface Pro 3 as a tablet versus the iPad. Simply put, as a tablet experience, the iPad is better.

The magic of combining and Ultra and a tablet together

Where things get really interesting is when you have to make some tough choices on what you bring with you on a trip.  My iPad is a better tablet than the Surface Pro 3.  My MacBook Air is better than the Surface Pro 3 as an Ultrabook.  But if I only can carry one device, the Surface Pro 3 beats both of them.

That’s because the Surface Pro 3 has some unusual advantages that time will probably make even bigger:

  1. The Surface Pro 3 hardware is better than both the iPad and the MacBook Air (faster, sturdier, can be brought on a plane without taking out during airport security – a big bonus for an OCD person like me)
  2. It has a better store policy: I can directly buy Kindle books and Comixology comics right on the device (which I can’t on the iPad).
  3. It provides a vastly better web experience than the MacBook Air (and right up there with an iPad Air except for the annoying UX issues of not being able to quickly scroll to top, poorer selection experience and poorer zoom in experience).
  4. I can use it as a tablet while still having a Display Port output, a micro-SD card slot and able to hook up a mouse to it.
  5. The display is magical. The Surface Pro 3 has the best display I’ve ever seen on any device in my life (so far). 

So ironically, when I’m traveling over night, it’s the Surface Pro that comes with me. Not the iPad or the MacBook Air.  And if I’m traveling for say a week+ it’s still my Surface Pro 3 and my MacBook Pro 15 (the Core i7 in the MBP 15 is twice as fast as what’s in the SP3 which I need for compiling).

If Microsoft gets its act together they can be a real player

The upcoming Broadwell CPU line from Intel could be a game changer for Microsoft.  If they can combine Broadwell with LTE and a non-idiotic version of Windows (i.e. Windows 9) they could have a real chance at being the viable alternative to iOS.  

I think Microsoft has the right idea going forward given the rapid improvements they’ve made this year to Windows 8. But whatever internal politics led to the Windows 8 design needs to be fully cleansed from their company culture.  The Surface Pro 3 is the best hardware on the market today saddled with some of the worst software.  Microsoft has shown with Windows 8.1 (and its updates) that they get it but they are in a race against time.

Do I recommend a Surface Pro 3?

If I needed a Windows Ultrabook I’d choose Surface Pro 3 over anything else.  If I were looking for purely a tablet, I’d still go for an iPad. 

GalCiv III Pre-Beta Status

Published on Friday, August 08, 2014 By Frogboy In Journals - GalCiv III

Greetings!

The team is really excited to get Beta 1 of Galactic Civilizations III out there.  The target date is one week away.

The Founder's Edition, which is what provided access to the Alpha builds along with a lifetime subscription to everything we make for Galactic Civilizations III (all expansions, DLC) will not be offered anymore once the beta comes out.  On the other hand, the beta Early Access edition will be $5 off the list price of $49.95.

So what's up?

They got a major graphics overhaul to the ships in. It was non-trivial and I think players will agree when they see it that no game has ever had better looking ship visuals than what will be in Beta 1. A big part of the reason is that the graphics engine is 64-bit and we're requiring DirectX 10 or better and as a result the materials and lighting on ships is something we've never seen before in games (though I suspect as 64-bit becomes more common and DirectX 10+ becomes required in more games you'll see the generational leap in visuals from the legacy DirectX 9 era we're still largley stuck in).

The other thing they've been working a lot on is multiplayer. We have an Arena map in development that, believe it or not, should allow for 1 on 1 duels to be played in around half an hour.  We still have a lot of work on the multiplayer front though. We need to make it easy for people to rejoin games so that friends can get together and play together on games that might take months to complete.

Design Challenges

One of our objectives is for people to have the option to play new "Immense" sized maps where there might be hundreds of empires playing.  We have a lot of different ideas on how to make this work (few people are going to want to have to select 130 opponents to play against).  We might use Steamworks Workshop to allow players to share their custom made players and once approved have automatically added as additional AI players into games where a player wants to play a game with a truly insanely large galaxy.

Fleet Battles

The marketing team is struggling in how to describe the fleet combat in GalCiv III.  My suggestion has been to describe it in terms of Hearthstone.  Your fleet is your desk and your ships are your minions that you crafted.  However, where the analogy fails is that the actual "tactics" of fleet battles are handled AI vs. AI.  So your skill is about how you design ships and assemble fleets. Looking closely at what your enemies are designing with their ships and organizing them and countering it will be crucial.  

Diplomacy and AI

Beta 1 won't have diplomacy in. Some modder might figure out a way to turn it on but it's not ready to be shown yet. I am not scheduled to begin writing AI code until October.  

In less than 1 week, these forums will likely get very very busy.

The game industry’s problem with misogyny

Published on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

The Internet is toxic, but its toxicity is usually equal opportunity

One of the more annoying trends in our society has been the substitution of action with rhetoric.  This has really taken off in the age of Twitter where people think hashtags are a replacement for actually doing something.

Today I read an Opinion Piece on Polygon called “No Skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry”  It’s a good piece and one I think you should read. 

However, I do have some criticisms of the piece. For starters, it is a bad piece of journalism. It relies completely on sensationalistic emotionalism to back up its blanket assertion (“the daily harassment of women in the game industry”). 

Such articles, even opinion pieces, are apparently not open to discussion.  As soon as I expressed some criticism on Twitter the haters came out in force. All sense of reason evaporated.  My criticism was: Be aware that sometimes allegations of sexual harassment are false (remember what happened to me). That, by no means, had anything to do with the anecdotes in the article. It has to do with how women sometimes choose to take criticism/teasing/abuse as being due to their sex. 

Let me give you the part from the article that caused me to write my tweet in the first place:

Two things to point out about this: First, anonymous user (which is one of the sources of why Internet discussion can get so toxic) and second, while clearly abusive, this has nothing to do with the writer being female.  I have gotten tweets to me very similar to this when I've made a casual tweet regarding a game console. Ask Phil Fish about internet abuse.

The point of my tweet is that we need to be careful on this because *sometimes* the allegation that it's *sexual* harassment is false. You want to reduce this kind of toxic abuse? Let's encourage services like Twitter from allowing anonymity.

The article provides 4 anecdotes, not all of which even imply *sexism* rather than general vile Internet behavior that many of us run into regularly and tries to make sweeping conclusions with it. I take issue with articles that make sweeping (and arguably sexist) charges against men using 4 anecdotes as evidence.

If we were debating any other topic and someone made a broad, far reaching claim and backed it up with nothing more than 4 anecdotal examples they’d get reamed.  But because we are talking about an ism, it is taboo to raise any skepticism about the article’s agenda.

I’ve been in the game industry for over 20 years. I’ve seen its ugliness in many different forms. So let me tell you: This subject matter is delicate and should be treated as such. 

The game industry, however IS rife with misogyny. But that isn't necessarily connected to the general toxicity of Internet conversation.  We should do something about the general toxicity of the Internet. 

But if you want to do something specifically about misogyny in the game industry, start with the working environments of game studios and the sexist reaction successful women in the game industry often receive. When a man does something impressive and gets some publicity, they get kudos and support.  But if a woman does something impressive and gets the same publicity, their experience is likely to be terrible and humiliating.  I’ve seen this first hand and it’s discouraging.

...But we have to be careful that this issue isn't exploited by opportunistic people to for professional or personal gain.

My story

Now, since this is my blog I'm going to going to use the personal hell I went through when I was falsely accused of sexual harassment. But before we won, she made true on her threat to publicly post her fabricated allegations if we didn't pay her off.  So while we did win and she got nothing, it was still a nightmare for me because people automatically believed her allegations which included claiming her I asked if she had ever tasted semen, discussing her "nipples" and other digusting completely made up things that were denied by her named witnesses (current and former female employees where I work). 

Years later, I still regularly get attacked online for being "sexist" and having people refusing to ever buy Galactic Civilizations or Fallen Enchantress (two games where most of the code were written by women ironically -- I'll show you! I won't buy games developed by women!).

Needless to say, the ordeal has made me a lot more skeptical when I see someone cry "sexism".

So what can we do?

I’m an engineer, I’m interested in solutions and I think there is a lot we can do to address this issue:

  1. Punish people who harass other people. I.e. Permanently ban someone who writes the kind of disgusting invective that the article cites.  XBox Live and other services allow for an immense level of abuse of all kinds. Don’t tolerate it anymore.
     
  2. Eliminate anonymous profiles on social networks like Xbox Live, Twitter, Article COMMENTS.
     
  3. Encourage / Reward those who actually DO something. The reason “white knighting” is despised is because it’s really about people making themselves feel good about themselves.   Less rewarding of progressive rhetoric and more reward of progressive action.

    The media could do more to cover games and studios that utilize female talent.  Do you like Galactic Civilizations? The lead developer of GalCiv I and II is a woman (and by lead developer I mean the highest % of C++ code in the game was written by her).  Like Falllen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes? The #1 C++ coder on that project was a woman (a different woman).  

    Like the Stardock websites including galciv3.com, oxidegames.com, elementalgame.com? Designed, coded, and created by women (3 women in particular).  How about Start8? ModernMix? Project Manager of those two projects, a woman.

    Why do I bring up these self-serving examples: To illustrate that the media has never chosen to cover any of this. Why not?
     
  4. Encourage people to talk about the transformative effects of a more diversified working environment. We hire a lot of women because it makes our products better. Not because women are “just as good” as men but rather because men and women bring unique strengths.

    Running a company dominated by one sex puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the talent area.  Men and women are different.  Here’s a “sexist” statement: It has been my experience that women are better at UI design than men. I have no idea why. That’s 20 years of observation talking. Men tend to be better at debugging. No idea why. Don’t care. Both seem to be equally effective at writing buggy code.

     
  5. Scrutinize and punish those who make false claims on this topic. We need to be very very careful about tarring and feathering people on this issue. Don’t reward those who are trying to profit from playing the sexism card.

Choose to be part of the solution: Do your part to make the Internet a less toxic environment. Don’t just blindly support empty, feel good pap. Keep your critical thinking cap on.

Update: Slashdot comments are very interesting and in stark contrast to the empty progressive rhetoric on Twitter. http://games-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/07/22/229256/the-daily-harassment-of-women-in-the-game-industry

Update 2: Added more content, added item #2 regarding anonymity. Fixed Typos. (see edit history).

Scarab 215 review

Published on Monday, July 21, 2014 By Frogboy In Life, the Universe and Everything

The Scarab brand has been reintroduced this year with the launch of 3 new jet boats. These jet boats are the spiritual (and in many respects, literal) successor to the Seaddoo line of Jetboats that BRP discontinued at the end of 2012.

layout), the 195 (a 19 foot model) and the 215 (a 21 foot model with 2 Rotax engines).

As a current (and happy) owner of a 2011 Seadoo 150 (and occasional user of the Seadoo Challenger), I can say that the general build quality of the new Scarab line is substantially superior to the Seadoos. This com

scarab

The 215 is the most gorgeous boat I’ve ever seen

Scarab has launched with 3 models: The 165 (Which is an updated version of the Seadoo 150 with a different

es in the form of more (by default) sound insulation, better trim work, snap in carpet (by default), better usability detailing and significantly better seats.

I agonized a bit over whether to get the 215 or the 195. Ultimately, I decided I wanted the fastest boat I could get and that meant the 215 with dual Rotax 250HP engines. With a top speed of about 60 MPH, it’s as fast as I would ever want to go on our inland Michigan lake.

What I like

Mine came with the premium sound system and it is amazing. There are several speakers throughout the boat and 3 sets of controls around the boat for controlling sound.  The Sony stereo was a snap to setup Bluetooth Audio with my iPhone.

I also really like the Bimini top. It’s very firm and holds up well to going high speed. It also provides the driver and copilot a nice bit of shade. It’s fairly easy to take down if you choose not to be covered.  Having it up does cost you about 5MPH in top speed.

Probably my favorite feature is the stern deck. The adjustable seats make it easy to sit back in the back as well as get in and out of the water. For such a sporty boat, it’s also a remarkably practical boat for taking guests out on the lake. In fact, it proved to be so practical that it made my Bennington pontoon boat obsolete and caused me to sell it.  I can do everything in this boat that I could in the pontoon.

The adjustable seats are also a major highlight for me. I’ve read people on forums calling them a “gimmick”. They’re not.  While they can be a bit clunky, they make the boat so much more enjoyable to use because you can use the back of the boat as a lounge area or a reading area. Frankly, after having used these, I grew fairly disgusted with the state of pontoon boats which still lack this kind of simple flexibility.

It also have a lot of compartments that seem really well thought out. This was one area that it really beats the Seadoo boats they replaced. That isn’t to say that Seadoos and Yamahas don’t have plenty of storage area too. The difference here is the thought behind the storage areas. There’s lots of small spots to place things that are quite useful (the anchor locker, for instance, is a nice touch).

While not a new feature per se, the drive system supports Cruise, Eco, Ski, and Docking modes.  I found the Cruise and Ski modes to be kind of gimmicky but the Docking and Eco modes are immensely useful. These modes, in effect, give the onboard computer more say over how the engine runs.

The docking mode made low speed maneuvering extremely easy. I’m pretty versed in jet boat use at this point but I was struck by how much more precision the docking mode gave me.  

The eco mode gives the computer more control over how the engine runs in order to save a great deal of fuel. I have only done some testing with this but I would guess that it’s about a 20% savings on fuel. The only downside is that you can’t run the boat as fast.

There are also a number of small touches I appreciated. The ladder system is strapless and a cinch to extend and retract. The captain and co-pilot chairs came with built in seat bolsters that let me quickly and easily fold in the bolster and sit up to get a much better view. There is included side “webbing” around the boat to make it easy to store things.

What I didn’t like

You might have gotten the impression that I think the boat is perfect.  It’s not.

The 215’s super charged Rotax engines are very loud. Even with the extra sound insulation Scarab put in, it’s louder than I would like. It’s a non-trivial problem to solve because the engines just barely fit in the engine compartment.  I don’t want to make it sound like they’re incredibly loud in general. They’re quieter than a similarly configured Seadoo would be. But I had read online that the Scarabs were noticeably quieter but I’m not seeing that.

The cockpit display is disappointing. There is real limit in how much information is displayed at once (like water temp and water depth – choose one). In fact, the cockpit in general is surprisingly chintzy. The switches for turning on lights and using modes looks like something I might have built back in EE class.

It uses physical keys (two of them) to start up. Seems like I should be able to plug in a fob or something and then press two buttons to start up each motor.

It rattles at higher speeds. I can’t quite pinpoint where the loud rattling comes from but it detracts from my enjoyment. I think it’s them windshield but it seems to be on well. Nevertheless, my Seadoo doesn’t rattle.

The snap in carpet doesn’t have nearly enough snaps. Wind can (and does) get under the carpet causing it to come up occasionally if going high speed (60MPH for extended periods).

The radio “controller” at the captain’s location has no display. So I can’t tell what station I’m on. This seemed like an unnecessary cheap out that has a material effect on enjoying the music system.

The adjustable seats are clunky. That is, they’re a bit of a pain to adjust. I’m thankful that they can be adjusted. I just wish they were easier to do so.

There is no way to get on the boat without crawling over the seats. This eliminates it as a touring boat for older passengers. This is a real shame because the boat is so practical in every other respect.

Conclusions

Don’t like my criticisms scare you off. It’s a great boat. But this is a review and one of the things that prompted me to write it was out vapid the boat reviews I’ve seen so far have been.

I’m loving my time with the boat. My above list of nits are not show stoppers. It’s definitely the most enjoyable boat I’ve ever owned. It’s gorgeous, fast and remarkably practical as a touring boat. And thanks to the ECO mode, it’s also not the gas guzzler you’d normally expect out of this type of boat.

Photos

photo 2 - Copy

Here I have the seats down so that my wife can sunbathe while our daughter swims around. You can also see the two rear speakers.  In the center there you can see the tow line for tubing. I was not terribly happy with it being so low on the boat as it makes it easier to accidentally run over the line (Since the captain can’t see the line connection from his position).

photo 3

Just a close up of the side. You can see the Bimini top which is very firm and one of my favorite features of the boat.

photo 4

View of the front. This is a fantastic design. Most jet boats have something similar but it makes touring on this boat so much more enjoyable than say a Pontoon.

 

photo 5

This is the built in Bolster seat. You just fold it up to give you a booster to sit on. It’s remarkably comfortable and made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the boat.

image

Here is the control console here.  Overall, it’s fine. But I had wished that it was a but more sophisticated. My biggest gripe is how ghetto the stereo controller is here. But in terms of controlling the boat, it’s all fine.

On vacation: Don't burn the place down!

Published on Saturday, July 19, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

Okay guys! I'm out at the lake for the next couple weeks. I only plan to be on working when the weather is crummy.  I just checked out source code for E2015 and will be working on that during the rainy days.

While I'm out. please DO NOT burn down the place. I know it's tempting. I realize now that leaving the ammo dump and the fuel depot together in the same area of the forum were mistakes but resist! Just resist.

Thank you!

FE: Legendary Heroes v1.7 this month

Published on Wednesday, July 09, 2014 By Frogboy In Elemental Dev Journals

It looks like, with any luck, LH v1.7 will be going out a week from this Thursday (July 17th).

This is possibly the biggest update we’ve done to Legendary Heroes since its release.

You can read up on what’s new in it here: http://forums.elementalgame.com/455808/

Besides a ton of tweaks to the game itself, new features, new content and improved AI we were able to diagnose some crash bugs and fix them as well. So not only should it be the funnest update we’ve done but the most stable as well.

These updates are thanks to you guys.  Your purchases of DLC allow us to hire more developers to either work on LH or on other projects which free other developers to work on LH.

The next DLC is going to focus around tactical battles and new map stamps.

Return from 2020: Super Cruise Control

Published on Tuesday, July 01, 2014 By Draginol In Everything Else

The time machine worked like a charm (this time anyway) and I got to spend a few hours in 2020.

Things haven’t changed nearly as much as I imagined (I was hoping for Amazon delivery drones, but alas, none to be found).  But my friend drove me up north and showed off a relatively new feature on his BMW: Super Cruise.

Now, admittedly, I had hoped there would be self-driving cars by then but apparently they still aren’t a thing in 2020 which was a big bummer.  However, most of the high end cards do have Super Cruiser (different companies call it different things – Ford calls theirs “Smart Cruise”).

Anyway, the way it works is that you get on a highway, get to the speed you want and set “Super Cruise” which will then keep you on the road at that speed, in that lane and handle acceleration and deceleration as well as steering.  It only works on certain highways under certain conditions (all GPS / road condition based – which has come a long way) but otherwise it’s pretty neat.

I wasn’t there long but if anyone has any questions on 2020 I’ll try my best to answer. Smile

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