Tag Archives: tech

I’m a Killer – But I’m a Lousy One


So, there we were – on a street in China, I think it was – pinned down by an enemy who had encamped himself on the edge of a loading platform. Two of my battle buddies were trapped, and there was no way around him. In my ear, I could hear my comrades begging for someone to please take the bastard out.

I hatched a plan. I crept up a ramp near the platform, and rolled a flash-bang grenade into the doorway on the back of the building. It worked; the enemy sprang from his perch and began to unload his whole clip into the doorway, figuring it was being breached.

I shot the poor bastard right in the side of his head. He dropped his gun, grabbed his face and fell to the ground, dead.

In my earpiece, I heard the exclamations of joy from my colleagues as they rushed forward. Alas, my victory was short lived; as the flash-bang had led one enemy to believe someone was exiting the door, the other enemies inside were alerted that someone was possible breaching their little pillbox, and so the baddies began pouring out onto the platform, each gunning for yours truly. I died. Quickly.

If you’ve been wondering why this blog has not been more frequently updated since, say, late November, you have Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to thank – at least for my absence. As for my cohorts on the blog, I don’t know what their excuse has been. One or two of ‘em had a baby or something stupid, I don’t know. Another probably has the clap, and a couple are teachers who are just too timid to post anything interesting, and so choose not to post at all.

Whatever. Pansies.

As for me, I’ve had Modern Warfare 3. See, this blog – like any other blog – isn’t about you, the reader; it’s about me, the writer who shills out $20 a year for the domain name (and that wasn’t even my first choice). It’s my therapy, my loudspeaker, my hobby. I figure, if I’m going to be writing for myself anyway, I may as well send it out into the world somehow, and since people don’t publish pamphlets anymore, I use this blog.


I'm not a n00b -- but I get killed as often as one.

So, as I come in from work, feed and wash the kid, tidy up around the house and settle in for a little “me” time, I have a few pursuits to enjoy. I can read, catch up on my sewing (yes, I have things that need mending, what of it?), watch a movie or some television, or write. Since I compose these little diatribes on a laptop, it’s rather easy to combine the “watching television” and “writing” things.

Or, I can play videogames. And, for damned near two months, this has been my pursuit; largely owing to the addictive nature of Call of Duty, which I enjoy, even though I’m rather awful at the game.

Seriously, I’m bad. I’ve had messages from people asking me to leave their team. I often finish in the last three on my team, if not dead last. I consider myself a real asset to my team if my kill-to-death ratio is 1:1. And when others finish below me, or when I finish in the top three on my team, I realize that my team has some serious problems. I am regularly and frequently “pwned” by the same enemy, killed over and over and over for the duration of a match.

But, then, I’m a very casual gamer; I’m not some out-of-work 20-something who has all day to sit around in his underwear at his parents’ house and play Call of Duty. I have a daughter, a wife, a house and a job; Call of Duty is a leisurely pursuit; not a major part of my life.

Now, I have learned enough to make myself at least dangerous – if not particularly scary – in the game. I no longer just crouch in a corner and hope no one happens by, nor do I run devil-may-care through an open field figuring that there’s no one around who’d take a shot at me. And, in many instances, I’ve got a 50-50 shot at taking out an enemy if left to fend for myself one-on-one.

But, I get shot in the back a lot, and if there’s more than one enemy in my crosshairs, I’m usually able to take out only one before his buddies do me in. I also get stabbed a lot, and I’m prone to getting sniped and bombed – though I survive a lot of grenade attacks, somehow.

Still, it’s entertainment, and rarely do I get so mad that the game is no longer fun. And if a group is simply way too lethal for me to be competitive, it’s a simple matter to resign myself from the lobby and join another group, searching for greener, easier-to-kill grasses.

Given that I’m writing this blog, you can be sure that I’m not playing Call of Duty tonight, so if you’re hoping for easy quarry, don’t hold your breath. And I’m hoping to begin posting more, because writing these blogs – and my popular “Dispatches from the Road” posts – are rewarding in and of themselves.


Jesus H. Christ, Netflix: Why Are You Doing This to Me?


Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

So, Monday morning, after awkwardly fondling my alarm clock until the beeping stopped, I pawed for my BlackBerry on my nightstand to see what I’d missed overnight.

One was an e-mail from Reed Hastings, the CEO and co-founder of Netflix. It hit my inbox at 3:44 a.m., almost as though Hastings had sat up all night wrestling with his tormented soul and at last had to unleash his agony via an e-mail to myself and a bunch of other subscribers.

I’ve written before about my conflicted relationship with Netflix, back when they first raised their prices. Then, I talked about how terribly underused the service is in our home and how I’m paying, more than anything, for the peace of mind of knowing that this catalog of movies are available to me. I like Netflix, even a more expensive Netflix. But I don’t seem to have a whole bunch of time to enjoy it.

Then I get this e-mail Hastings that I barely read with my sleepy eyes. I really didn’t get the gist of what he was saying until NPR mentioned it on my way to work. They would split the company in two, with Netflix doing the digital streaming and a new company, “Qwikster,” taking over the DVD business that gave Netflix its start. The big thing I took away from it was, no price change.

OK, do what you want, call it what you want, just don’t raise my price or drastically change the produce I’m paying for. I’m cool with that.

Ah, but as the day progressed it became increasingly clear that, indeed, Netflix was changing the product. Substantially.

The Netflix site is great. You come up with a list of movies you want to see, and the movies that are available to “Watch Instantly” over the Internet, you can, and the others you can get on DVD. I can work with that. If there’s something in particular I want to pull up – a movie or an episode of Dora the Explorer for my 3-year-old to watch, well, I can do that, too. Excellent. It’s worth what I’m paying.

But with the launch of Qwikster, that won’t really be the case, because Qwikster’s DVD cue will not line up with the cue in Netflix. The sites won’t talk to each other. You go to Netflix, see if they have it. If not (and usually, they don’t), you’ll go over to Qwikster and add it to your list.

It makes what was a sleek and seamless interface clunky and contrived.


Well, we have some theories. Netflix is faced with the innovator’s dilemma. That is, to move forward with its future – online streaming to Xbox, Playstation, Wii, laptop, iPad, etc. users – it has to attack the innovation that made it as successful as it is. You can’t build a new house because your old house is in the way. To move forward with its streaming service, it has to kill its DVD service. That’s why its new Web site is an awkward and misspelled word that no one will remember and that will probably be confused with Napster, which also is practically useless.

(Really? You couldn’t call it “Quickster,” at least?)

Also, Netflix is facing a new obstacle to content: the people who produce it. When the streaming service first started, the content consisted mostly of some old movies I’d never heard of and some documentaries no one wanted to see. Delivering movies over the Internet was a novelty that movie studios were willing to take a flat rate to permit. In short, Netflix paid so many millions of dollars for such and such movies for a year. Now, studios are wise to the gig and they want to be paid per subscriber. That’s where Netflix and the studios have a rub, because not every subscriber uses the services. Studios want to be paid not for their content being viewed, but for their content being available to view.

This is convoluted, but it might have some merit. In essence, the fewer subscribers it has, the less Netflix can be expected to pay for content. If it can keep up revenues while reducing the number of subscribers, it would have more revenue to invest in making more content available.

Further, there’s good cause to kill off the DVD business. For one, the survival of the very service that delivers the product – the U.S. Postal Service – is unsure. The service is hemorrhaging money and discussing cutting back service and closing post offices. Now, we have a one-DVD-at-a-time account, which means that, if we really stay on top of watching our discs as soon as they arrive, we can get through about two movies a week. Not bad. But if the postal service kills Saturday delivery (as they likely should), that kills our ability to see two DVDs a week, too. That would cut down the number of movies I can watch in a given year by 50 percent with no cut in price for what I’m paying for the service. That would be enough to make me cancel that part of my subscription.

DVDs also are a pain. They get lost. They get scratched. You’re dealing with a relatively fragile product that you’re sending into all kinds of private residences where people are treating them all kinds of ways. If you can deliver content without using these fragile discs or a third party – the post office – then that’s preferable. This is also the area of the business where Netflix (or Qwikster, I suppose) that truly faces competition from vendors like Redbox and, well, to a lesser degree, Blockbuster.

Here’s what I want: the movies I want to see – including and especially new releases – available instantly for one flat monthly rate. Hell, I’ll pay Netflix my whole $16 a month and ditch the DVDs if they’ll let me see this summer’s blockbusters over the Internet. It’s worth it to me. I gather it’d be worth it to a lot of other folks, too. It could be a pretty profitable venture for Netflix and for the studios that provide the content that Netflix delivers.

My problem is, I can’t see at all how Netflix plans to get there from here.