Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pokémon (the card game)

Yesterday I played the Pokémon card game for the first time. I feel sort of culturally enlightened. I was always against the idea because of the whole rigged-in-favor-of-whoever-has-spent-the-most-money theme. That's still a valid complaint, but my son just got a couple of starter decks, so by playing with default cards we sort of bypassed that element. And I have to say that the card game just might be more interesting than the video game, as heretical as that sounds. And yes, my son beat me.

I was using a deck with electric and fire Pokémon, while he had water and some fire. He never ended up using any of the fire ones. I tried not to, and the one time I did it backfired because of the whole water-beats-fire thing. What really bugged me about my deck is that it was so hard to get energy cards attached to my Pokémon, so I couldn't attack very often. And even when I could, the good attacks use up an energy card. My son didn't have that limitation. If I cared enough to get additional cards to modify the deck, the first thing I'd do would be to swap out some of the lame Pokémon for more energy cards. But mostly I think I just don't like the deck. That said, I'm going to try again and see if I can come up with a working strategy.

One thing I will say in favor of Pokémon is that it doesn't have the nastiness of Magic. I've seen people play that, and it was kind of interesting, but there's also the whole undead theme that permeates that game. Although I did take a sharpie to one of the trainer cards in order to lengthen a shirt, so that's another complaint. And the game isn't as fun as Splendor, which is the other card game we got for Christmas. But I keep winning at that, so I'm afraid my family will bail on it eventually.

Oh, and one more thing: What's up with the accent mark in the name? It seems that the Japanese word for "Pocket Monsters" does stress the "e", but they don't in English. So in English translations, they shouldn't write the accent mark. Or we should all be saying "Po-KE-mon" instead of "PO-ke-mon".

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Force Awakens

[Major spoiler alert on the movie and also on the Plasma Master books.]

I saw Star Wars episode 7 yesterday. It was pretty entertaining - it's amazing how the music an yellow text can get you more excited and engaged in 60 seconds than pretty much any other movie. There were some head-scratching science moments, but I suppose that can be forgiven in Star Wars. And of course the parallels to A New Hope made a lot of the events fairly predictable, but that's understandable too, since they had to prove to the audience that they understand why Star Wars is cool. I guess. It was a little wonky how casually they got rid of a government that only folks who read the now un-canonized books would know anything about. It was a actually a little odd ignoring the stuff I've read; I guess that's now an alternate timeline, analogous to the new Star Trek movies. But the light sabers and X-wings and stuff made me very happy.

One thought I kept having was that I'm super glad I've already published the Plasma Master books. That's because they kept using ideas that I used in those books, and this way it's clear that I didn't copy them. (And to be completely honest, the new movie parallels the first movie way more than my book does.)

So in case you're wondering, here's what they used. I might add to this list later : )

  1. Going to warp inside a ship. Han did this to escape quickly, whereas Mirana did it to avoid enemies outside, but the concept was the same.
  2. Using warp drive to bypass a shield. Han breaks into the enemy base by using normal hyperspace, whereas in my books I specifically make this impossible by saying that it's standard procedure to set up a static warp shell that resonates at each warp phase at the shield's position, but Mirana manages to bypass Venom's shield at a negative warp phase.
  3. The hyperspace planet-destroying weapon - I didn't actually depict this, but I hint that the ancient Plasma Masters may have had such a weapon.
Said weapon was the most confusing bit of science. It seems that all of the New Republic planets were in the same star system, and since they didn't specify that the weapon fired through hyperspace (and since you can see it in a line instead of having it disappear and reappear), it looks like the bad guys' base is also in that star system. (Even so, the weapon would have to be faster than light speed, since it doesn't take hours to cross planets.) Not to mention how you store the mass of a star inside a planet. But like I said, you already have to have suspended scientific rigor if you're watching Star Wars movies. So I'm moving on.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

"This Christmas"

This is about the song, not the holiday. You know the song. The super whiny one about the guy whose girlfriend broke up with him last Christmas. Sadly, it was the first Christmas song I heard this year. It bugs me on many levels; hopefully writing them down will help me move on.

I guess first of all we need to clarify the narrative. Apparently the singer pledged his love for a girl the previous Christmas, and she didn’t immediately shoot him down. But the next day she told him that things weren’t going to work out. The singer was devastated. It’s unclear what happened over the course of the year, but when Christmas rolled around again, he pledged his love for someone else, then wrote a song to let the first girl know that he has moved on (and implying that she has missed out).

So here’s what’s lame:
  1. “I gave you my heart.” So the singer thinks that by asking this girl out, he was giving her a gift. In reality, though, he was asking her for a favor. And doing this on a holiday was a bit manipulative, since saying no would presumably dampen whatever other festivities were going on. Just imagine the dejected look she’d have to deal with on what is supposed to be a happy day. (Now, I suppose it’s possible that the girl had been sending positive vibes and that he may have been legitimately convinced that she would consider his “heart” as a gift. But I think that interpretation is unlikely given the other issues here.)
  2. The notion that the girl did something wrong by breaking up. If she wasn’t interested, she was under no obligation to continue the relationship. Of course the singer is justified in feeling disappointment, but this song goes beyond disappointment (as described below).
  3. “To save me from tears” – So the singer asked another girl out to avoid tears? Shouldn’t the motivation behind a relationship be a little deeper than that?
  4. “Someone special” – Obviously the singer considered the first girl to be special. So how is giving his heart to someone special different tactical choice now? This line is just a cheap insult to the first girl, but at the same time it paints the singer as pathetic. “You’re not special!” Who says that?
  5. Speaking of how special the first girl really is to him, why is he bothering to write her a song when he just got a new girlfriend? Does this girl know that he’s still pining over the previous girl? Does the singer even like the new girl, or is this whole relationship just a vehicle to launch the before-mentioned cheap insult?
  6. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that the song consists of the same two sentences repeated over and over.

Of the three people in the song, the new girl is the one I feel most sorry for. Fortunately, since this song comes on every year, I think we can safely assume that the singer gets shot down every year on December 26th, so the poor ladies involved don’t have to deal with him for too long.