Four cool things I discovered in 2015

Is anyone still alive here? Have you all been eaten by crickets? **chirp** **chirp**

I haven't had anything lengthy to post about in quite a while, so my LiveJournal has been dormant, and I've been more active on Twitter instead. But there have been four neat things I stumbled across this year that I'd like to share: two video games and two cartoons.

The first video game came out in March, "Ori and the Blind Forest". It's technically a 2-D platformer, but it's far more gorgeous than any other 2-D platformer I've played. It's of the Metroidvania family, which means you get to explore your world and gradually gain new powers to access places you couldn't reach before. You start the game in a dying forest, and your mission is to bring it back to life by releasing the spirits of Water, Winds, and Warmth, each of which are hidden in locked temples. Retrieving the key to each temple is an epic adventure itself. The game art is beautifully drawn, the orchestral soundtrack is magnificent, and the gameplay is thoroughly enjoyable. It's currently on sale for $11.99 on Steamonline.com.

The other game that got me hooked this year is an obscure title with a huge cult following, "Undertale". Made mostly by one person, it features old-school MIDI music and retro graphics, but it has charm and cleverness that grow enormously as you go deeper into the game. It's a traditional JRPG game with an ingenious hook: you don't have to kill any of the monsters if you don't want to. The story is breathtaking, especially at the end. If "Ori" was the Boston Philharmonic, "Undertale" is Bob Dylan with a guitar. It's on sale at Steamonline.com for $7.99.

"Madoka Magica" starts off with the same basic formula as Sailor Moon and most other Japanese magical girl series (cute animal arrives and offers teenage girls magical powers in order to fight off evil), but the creators made one tiny twist to the formula which sent the whole series off the rails into unexpected, unpredictable territory. The series is only twelve episodes long (plus a theatrical follow-up movie called Rebellion), so it's tightly scripted and doesn't get bogged down like the series that go on for years. The animation is stunning, the soundtrack is energetic and moody, and the English dubbing is excellent. Unfortunately the series is expensive to buy on BluRay due to short supply; you might be better off finding it on a streaming service (Amazon Video has the first four episodes available to see if you like it).

A friend hooked me up with a promo short from "The Amazing World of Gumball" and I immediately got hooked. It's full of 10-year-old-boy humor, about 1/3 The Simpsons, 1/3 Monty Python's Flying Circus, and 1/3 Calvin & Hobbes. The show focuses on Gumball the cat and his fish-brother Darwin, but there's a cast of dozens, my favorite of which is Anais, their 4-year old little sister who is the only intelligent person in the entire city. Expect ludicrous humor, bad puns, frenetic action, and a complete absence of boredom. It airs weekday afternoons on Cartoon Network and can be purchased on Amazon Video too.

Twitter Pated

For those who are using Twitter and aren't following me yet, you can do so @felonimayhem. It was originally going to be for Feloni's use only, but I've sort of muscled in on her turf.

Ouch, I got tagged by a devilbunny!

I guess I should be thankful I'm still alive.

From fluffy_cloud: Comment to this post, and I will list five things I associate with you, They might make sense or they might be totally random. Then post that list, along with your commentary.

1. Full Moon Ah, it's that time again, isn't it? I'm afraid I haven't been too good with the moons this year because my CuteOverload calendar at work doesn't have the moon phases. I'll try to turn Feloni into something wicked tomorrow (she's at Buzzy's house, so I won't have to suffer any unfortunate consequences).

2. Schnuffel Argh, looks like they took down his most recent video. I do like his music though, it's catchy and cheery and fun, and it's probably all for the best that I don't speak German, because the lyrics usually end up like "Hi! I love you! This is my new hit song! Sing with me! Doodeedoo..." Schnuffel helped me get through a rough time in life when I was working major overtime with the worst programming language I ever encountered.

3. Travels My favorite way to spend my free time, much easier now that I can drive. Each year I plan to go to Anthrocon, Midwest FurFest, Kennywood twice, Knoebel's once, pester Buzzy for 2-3 weekends in California, and go off on an adventure someplace I've never been before. Someday I'll have to visit England again, and maybe visit Japan once.

4. Liberatarian Libertarianism is based on the philosophical idea that maximizing individual freedom is the highest goal, and I'm a rather firm advocate of it. I acknowledge that other philosophical systems which seek to minimize suffering or maximize happiness have their strong points too, but they end up applying enormous pressure on people to adopt a definition of suffering or happiness that may not apply to them. I think it's best to let people follow their own star and accept the joys and sorrows that come from their hard work.

5. Furry I have some mixed feelings here; most furries are wonderful, accepting people, but there are a few rotten apples who try their best to spoil the entire barrel. I do my best to hang out with the nice furries and ignore the rest. It was delightful seeing all the bronies show up at the Midwest Furfest MLP gathering, everybody got to goof around and be immature for an hour. That may be one of the things I like best about the furry community, you can pretend to be a silly kid again for a little while and nobody will try to have you institutionalized for it.
  • Current Music
    Maps - Hey Ocean!

Well, that was mean.

There is a new Schnuffel song and video available at last, but you have to buy the videos and they only play on smart phones, not dumb phones like mine. Boo!

Anyway, here's a decent-sized chunk of the first video, in English:

And they finally finished his girlfriend's "Three Hazelnuts" video (it's in German though):

No signs that there are any more CDs on the way, looks like Jamba is making all this stuff for mobile phones only.
  • Current Music
    Trouble is a Friend - Lenka
Jyn Feloni Icon 1

Dear Mr. Buzzy

For what you've done to Jitters, you're hereby ordered to watch the video below and write a 500 word report on it, explaining in detail why it's not nice to be mean to others.

I hope you learn your lesson!
  • Current Music
    Whack-A-Mole music

Robin Hood needs glasses

There's a movement afoot to create a new international Robin Hood tax: a fixed percentage tax on the principal of all financial transactions. For a variety of reasons, this is a very bad idea.

I know the world is angry at the banksters and Wall Street, and for good reason. They made out like bandits in the good times and got us taxpayers to bail them out in the bad times. Hedge fund managers and master brokers make most of their income on capital gains and dividends, which have a lower tax rate than regular income. Bankers are sitting on the trillions of cash the Fed printed for them, or reinvesting it in government debt, instead of lending it out. They all have lobbyist connections in Washington that enable them to write custom tax exemptions for themselves into the tax code. And that's just for starters.

But the principal-based Robin Hood tax is attacking the problem from a bad angle. It'll severely damage or destroy the low-risk, low-yield, day-to-day investments that keep our economy running, and encourage investment in high-risk, high-yield securities like junk bonds and derivatives. The world financial markets will become more corrupt than ever.

Consider a 1% Robin Hood tax (proposed by some of the Occupy X leaders) and a one-year Treasury bill (one of the most common securities bought). The T-Bill is currently yielding 0.11%; you pay about $99.89 for it now and get $100 a year from now. Add in the Robin Hood tax, which is 1% of the $100, and you'll now pay $100.89 for $100 a year from now, a net loss of 89 cents. Nobody will be buying T-Bills or other low-risk securities because they'd be losing money. Either the Treasury will have to increase its yield and lending costs tenfold (at taxpayer expense) to provide a positive return on the investment, or nobody will be buying T-Bills anymore. Likewise all low-risk, low-yield debt will become unattractive to investors.

What would still look good? The high-risk, high-yield securities that would more likely cause disasters in the future. A junk bond with 10% yield would still look good at 9% yield. Wacky derivatives where you either make a fortune or lose your shirt would still look good. We'd be turning the financial sector from a dull bank with a shady casino in the back room into a full-sized shady casino. We'd be setting ourselves up for another bailout-or-depression devil's choice, and it would undoubtedly be worse than the 2008 version, because all the safe haven investments would be gone.

But would the banksters and Wall Street suffer, at least? Not a whole lot really, they'd pass all the fees on to their customers, maybe even add a markup for extra profit, and continue to live high on the hog until the economy completely tanks and they retire to the Cayman Islands with their gold bullion.

If you really want to punish investment, a more effective approach would be to Federally tax capital gains and dividends as normal income, rather than a discount rate as is currently done. This is a tax hike on the PROFITS, not the PRINCIPAL. Warren Buffet and the hedge fund managers make most of their income in these areas, so tax hikes there would hit them the hardest. The poor and middle class would pay a little more too, but they're in lower tax brackets, so it wouldn't hurt them as much. Whether punishing investment will help or hurt the country as a whole is left as an exercise for the reader.

One more problem with the Robin Hood tax: we'd need some sort of international tax collection authority to enforce it, possibly as part of the United Nations. You do NOT want the United Nations to have worldwide taxing authority, seriously. Within twenty years, there will be an Americans Suck tax that'll drain half of our GDP and give it to countries like Somalia and Uzbekistan. The world wants the Americans' money as much as the poor Americans want the rich Americans' money, and in a worldwide tax environment, they'll be able to take it.
  • Current Mood
    exhausted exhausted