G.I. Joe’s Cretins

I watched G.I Joe when I was a little kid, I played with Joes, I read the comic. I even, as an adult, bought the Devil’s Due relaunch back a decade ago. And yes, I cringed at the craptastic movie from a couple of years ago. (Supermodel Joes? WTF?)

Now, from io9, a sharp reminder that Joe crappiness didn’t begin in 2009: The 10 most useless Joes. Read ’em and weep.

RSS Bankruptcy

Google Reader is going away, in about two months. Replacements are springing up; no telling which will survive or thrive.

I do pretty much all my online reading through RSS. News, commentary, webcomics — if you don’t have a feed, I don’t read you.

Google Reader’s shutdown could severely impede my workflow.

Just today, I realized there were several starred articles left buried in my feeds, articles Reader dutifully saved for my later perusal. If I ever wanted to read any of them, I pretty much had to start now.

So I loaded them. And loaded them. And loaded them.

All 400 of them, going back to June of 2010.


Email bankruptcy is when you decide never to read the unread emails clogging your inbox — just delete them and move on. I should probably have declared RSS bankruptcy after seeing the sheer number of unread articles, but I didn’t.

Instead, I’ve decided to plumb through the depths of the articles, reading the interesting, deleting the boring, and saving the crucial.

In the last hour I’ve crossed off 38 articles, almost 10%, and saved 8 for research purposes. It turns out that, despite my apparent reticence, I really did want to read them, and they really are useful.

Of course, I also found out that my 7 hour workday has caused a multi-day crash, so there’s a hole in my schedule what needs fillin’, and the RSS articles will do.

Hopefully, I’ll finish off the backlog in time to transition to another feed sync service. I look forward to generating another multi-year backlog of unread articles there, as well.

Is World War Z a Genre Killer?

Brad Pitt’s next pic is a big budget adaptation of Max Brook’s World War Z, one of the best zombie novels out there. Unfortunately, the production has been plagued with troubles, including last minute, after shooting completed rewrites by two subsequent writers, after which they took 7-weeks to reshoot 50% of the movie. (Most entire movies shoot in 4 weeks.)

As Tony Stark would say, “historically, not awesome.”

In fact it’s such a bad sign, that World War Z could prove to be a genre killer, like the infamous Heaven’s Gate from 1980, a movie so bad that it killed Westerns as a viable mass-market genre. Believe it or not, Westerns were once as ubiquitous and popular as superhero movies are today. No more.

Hollywood is incredibly risk-averse (no studio exec wants to loose their salary, power, and perks), and even the most popular genre is one bad big-budget bomb away from becoming toxic and untouchable. World War Z’s budget is $125 million, a huge but not unheard of sum, and the budget sets the stakes for the studio and the genre.

If it flops, zombie movies and TV shows will have trouble being optioned and made. Hence, a “dead” genre.

Will it be a bomb of that magnitude? I hope not. I’m a big zombie fan, have been since I was a kid and saw Day of the Dead.

Nothing would please me more than a big-budget grand-slam zombie-movie hit. And nothing would irk me more than seeing my favorite undead genre being put to death.

See the leaked trailer here (until its taken down). Release date is June 21, 2013.

About the novel:

World War Z was one of the better zombie novels, if only for the notion that humans can and would improvise, adapt, and overcome the zombie menace. The war against the zombies is not hopeless. The book is not without notable flaws, including stifling political commentary and a thorough ignorance of how devastating artillery is to the human body, but it is a great read, nonetheless.

I Had a Good Day

From Firefly, “Serenity (Pilot)”:

Mal: I had a good day.

Simon: You had the Alliance on you… criminals and savages… half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself… and you’re harboring known fugitives.

Mal: We’re still flying.

Simon: That’s not much.

Mal: It’s enough.

So, I did some heavy duty spreadsheeting today. I did 68 fairly intricate tables, covering all sorts of different situations with skill and combat checks, just to get a handle on various success percentages.

It took me about 7 hours of work, but it was productive — it helped me clarify four different rules related to skill use (and start clarifying another, wrt/ combat). At the end of which, my brain was physically tired: the kind of fatigue you get after burning the candle for a sustained period of time.

People on the Torg list (and my friends) know that back in 2005 I started getting very sick, and eventually became wholly crippled. And, while I’m still pretty sick most days, yesterday was the first time in six years that I was able to put in something like a day’s work.

It’s not much. But for today, it’s enough.

I had a good day.

Quick “Disaster” Update

I dropped my dead Mac off at the Apple Store yesterday, thanks to the help of my friend Bryan. (A sometime commenter here.)

The problem is probably the video card, which I guessed. They’ve taken it in for service, at no cost to me (still under warranty). (A good thing too, because it would have cost me $700 otherwise.) 3 days for the part to arrive, then some unknown number of days to install it.

All my work on my spreadsheets (see the previous post for the simplest example) was done on my iPad, in Apple’s “Numbers” app. Couple the usefulness of the onboard apps, with an automatic backup to iCloud and over-the-air OS upgrades, and the iPad is almost the equivalent of a laptop, and far better than a netbook.

I admit, when my computer died I was… not panicked, but anxious and depressed. Fortunately, my paranoid backup habits (and some arcane computer tricks) kept my data intact, and my iPad has proven a serviceable substitute.

I guess I should downgrade “disaster” to “bloody annoyance”. (Apologies to UK readers. That phrase is far less vulgar over here, as its mainly associated with charming British sitcoms on PBS.) But, since I’m stuck with Ongoing Disaster in the Tags, I’ll just keep using that phrase.

Hopefully, it’ll be downgraded to “fading unpleasant memory” real soon. (You now, after 3 days for delivery, a few days for service, then waiting to pick it up…)

All About the Dice

I want to talk about success probabilities and skills, but before I do, I need to do a quick review of Infinity’s dice method, “2d10 Dice”.

All rolls (or nearly all) in the game use 2 10-sided dice. Typically, one is white (the Hot dice) and one black (the Cold dice). [The color scheme for Infinity is black and white.]

Roll the two dice and discard the highest. (0 is 10.) Look at the lowest dice. If it’s Hot, you add that number to your Rating. If it’s Cold, you subtract. If the two dice are the same, you got a +0.

This generates numbers from -9 to +9. The number you rolled is your bonus number.

This is equivalent to 1d10-1d10, but far quicker. People can instantly tell which number on the two dice is larger. Then you add or subtract.

Simple. Clear. Direct.

Onto the math.

The math is something players and GM’s never need to deal with directly. They can roll the dice all day long, and never have to plumb the black depths of probability.

It’s critically important for me to understand, however, which is why I spent several hours yesterday and today building a spreadsheet to calculate percentages. And here they are (well, part of them, at least):

Bonus Number Exact % X or Better, %
-9 1% 100%
-8 2% 99%
-7 3% 97%
-6 4% 94%
-5 5% 90%
-4 6% 85%
-3 7% 79%
-2 8% 72%
-1 9% 64%
0 10% 55%
+1 9% 45%
+2 8% 36%
+3 7% 28%
+4 6% 21%
+5 5% 15%
+6 4% 10%
+7 3% 6%
+8 2% 3%
+9 1% 1%

“Bonus Number” is the bonus number rolled. “Exact %” is the chance of rolling that bonus number exactly. “X or Better, %” is the chance of rolling that bonus number or higher.

So, 2% of the time, you will roll exactly a -8. But 99% of the time, you will roll a -8 or higher.

Because this dice method is used for nearly every roll, these probabilities underlie everything in the game, especially Skill and Combat Challenges.

I’ll talk about the skill rules, and how they interact with these probabilities, in the next skill post.