Posts tagged ‘South America’

Some Gaming News

A few random notes on computer games for those who share that interest:

  1. For those Diablo fans who loved Diablo II but were disappointed that Diablo III was not exactly the sequel they'd hoped for, I have a suggestion:  Path of Exile from Grinding Gear Games.  It is set up as an mmrpg (so you have to be online to play) but it plays just fine single player and all the map areas are dedicated instances such that you aren't fighting other players for kills and loot drops.  The skill tree is famously enormous.  A certain group of you will buy the game 2 minutes after clicking on the next link (I did).   Here is the whole tree, it is absurd (the highlighted areas are the selections for one of my characters).  The customization ability is simply staggering.   Choosing a class like fighter or mage (they have different names in this game, but essentially these base classes) just changes your starting point on this map.  But this is not the end of the customization.  There is also an elaborate skill gem system where your attack and defense skills are based on your gem choices, both the main gems and support gems one adds to it.  Seriously, the actual combat is not much more elaborate than the debuff then hack and slash and loot drop of other Diablo style games, but this game has more ability to fine tune and experiment with character design than any I have ever played.
  2. My absolute favorite, by far, board game has finally come out as a PC game -- Twilight Struggle.  It is on Steam and I can't yet fully recommend it because I have not played through all the way online.  I am told the AI needs to be tougher but it should be fine for noobs.  There is also online person to person play.  I love the gameplay and it has also been a platform for my son and I to have a lot of discussions about recent history.  If you are a total noob, here are a few lessons for the Soviet player (which I have the most experience playing)
    • The Soviets have to rush.  The game has three periods, and you have big advantages in period 1 and disadvantages in period 3.  You HAVE to build up a lead early or you are toast later on.  I have seen a 15 point lead evaporate in the last third of the game.  The best outcome is to win the game outright by the smear rule (20 point lead) by turn 7.
    • Your first move is to coup Iran.  Asia is yours in the early game if you succeed.  The only alternative is to first turn coup in Italy, but that is a riskier strategy and can only be justified if your first turn hand is really tuned to that approach.
    • Coup every turn ASAP.  Coups are your most powerful weapon (other than events) and couping first thing every turn denies that ability to the US
    • The space race is for dumping your worst cards, not an end in and of itself (always exceptions, of course).  Twilight Struggle's best dynamic is how you end up with your opponents cards in your hand that you end up having to play for them-- the space race is one way to dump the worst of these cards (e.g. grain sales to the Soviets).  Since the cards you can play become more restricted as you advance in the space race track, there are even some advantages to failing your rolls early on.
    • If you play the China card, it needs to be for a BIG goal - like improving your scoring of Asia right before you play the Asia scoring card.  In many cases, it is better to not play the China card at all than to have it pass to the Allies.
    • Cards that allow you to play influence on any country should be used to get access to places where you have no adjoining influence -- don't use it to add to existing influence or enter countries to which you already are adjacent.   This is the only way in initially to places like South America and much of Africa..  Decolonization is your friend.
    • Learn to love this site.  Not only does it give you a LOT of strategy, but it also answers complex card interaction questions for every card.

Does the US Matter?

After NASA was forced to restate its US temperature data downward, James Hansen argued that the US doesn't matter.  After it was observed that long-term temperature measurement is flawed in South America and Africa, James Hansen agreed and argued that South America and Africa don't matter.  Since oceans cover 75% of the globe and we have no long-term temperature record for these oceans or for Antarctica, I ask the question at Climate Skeptic:  What does matter?

Ethanol Get's Slammed

Finally, the blinders are coming off and the media is starting to
wake up to the absolute travesty that is the Congress's promotion of
ethanol.  From Rolling Stone(!) emphasis added.

This is not just hype -- it's dangerous, delusional bullshit.  Ethanol doesn't burn cleaner than gasoline, nor is it
cheaper. Our current ethanol production represents only 3.5 percent of
our gasoline consumption -- yet it consumes twenty percent of the
entire U.S. corn crop, causing the price of corn to double in the last
two years and raising the threat of hunger in the Third World. And the
increasing acreage devoted to corn for ethanol means less land for
other staple crops, giving farmers in South America an incentive to
carve fields out of tropical forests that help to cool the planet and
stave off global warming.

So why bother? Because the whole
point of corn ethanol is not to solve America's energy crisis, but to
generate one of the great political boondoggles of our time. Corn is
already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51
billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005 -- twice as much as
wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is
propped up by hefty subsidies, including a fifty-one-cent-per-gallon
tax allowance for refiners. And a study by the International Institute
for Sustainable Development found that ethanol subsidies amount to as
much as $1.38 per gallon -- about half of ethanol's wholesale market

Hurrah!  Unfortunately, I fear we may be waking up too late.  Already, billions of dollars are being invested by politically connected companies
on the promises of subsidies and promotion of ethanol extending out to
the end of the universe.  At this point, ethanol may be as entrenched
as agriculture subsidies, the education department, and depression-era
alcohol regulation.  The government has no problem reneging on contracts with oil companies, but God forbid anyone deny Archer Daniels Midland the right to infinite subsidies.