The Nature of the Scorpion

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

There’s an old fable that tells of scorpion that begs a frog for a ride across the river. The frog replies, “if I give you a ride on my back, you’ll sting me!”

The scorpion assures him, “if I sting you, we’ll both drown!”

The frog accepts this as logical, and agrees to take him across the river on his back. About half way there, the frog feels a sharp pain, and his legs go numb – they both begin to sink.

“Why did you do it?” asked the frog, “Now we’ll both die!”

“I couldn’t help it,” replied the scorpion, “it’s in my nature!”

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In other variations, the frog is replaced with a fox. Perhaps this was to illustrate that even a creature as clever and resourceful as a fox is not immune to the cruel indifference of nature.

A modern retelling has the fox place the scorpion on the end of his snout where he can keep an eye on him, flinging him off at the moment he raises his stinger. Interesting, but I think it misses the point (pun intended); The fox learns no lesson and instead, confirms only what he already knew to be true.

The last variation of the story replaces the scorpion’s fellow traveler with a tortoise. According Bidpai (as retold by Maude Barrows Dutton):

Halfway across he was startled by a strange rapping on his back, which made him ask the scorpion what he was doing.

“Doing?” answered the scorpion. “I am whetting my sting to see if it is possible to pierce your hard shell.”

“Ungrateful friend,” responded the tortoise, “it is well that I have it in my power both to save myself and to punish you as you deserve.” And straightway he sank his back below the surface and shook off the scorpion into the water.

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The scorpion pretends to understand logic and can parrot reasoned arguments, but he is and will always be a slave to his nature. Is there any point to being upset at a scorpion for being a scorpion?

The lesson here (if there is one) is this: You can only trust a scorpion to be himself. And if you are going to try help him, you’d better have thick skin.

Revisiting the AR

In decades past, an entry-level AR would set you back some $800 whereas you could pick up a decent AK pattern rifle for around half that. As a consequence, I became an AK enthusiast. At the time, they were cheaper to own and cheaper shoot (~$.20 a round vs ~$.35 for the equivalent 5.56 ammunition).

Accessories for the AK developed into a cottage industry, and before long, many of the features that used to be exclusive the to AR became available for the AK (e.g. railed hand guards, telescoping buttstocks, optics, enhanced triggers, AR-style grips etc.).

Even so, the utilitarian nature of the AK lacked many of the quality of life features standard on all ARs (e.g. magazine wells, last-round bolt hold-open, easier safety selector, better ergonomics… etc.). Do any of these features inhibit your ability to send lead down range, or appreciate the simplicity and elegance of a proven platform that has continued to serve its purpose for 70 years? Not at all.

So why consider an AR now? For the same reason I bought my first AK’s: price!

Over the last 6 months, we’ve seen a 180° shift in the market. AK’s (and other mil-surp imports) that used to run $400-800 are now selling for $900-1,600+. AR’s which were manufactured during the election scare that were fetching as much as $700-800+ for a basic plain Jane AR can now be had for as little as $300 with a stripped lower and parts kit.

For that reason, I decided to look into buying one, here’s what I settled on:

  • Caliber: 5.56. Exotic uppers and ammunition get expensive and can come later (if ever).
  • Mid-Length Gas System: Carbine-length (from what little I know) is intended for shorter barrels (14.5″ and less). Rifle-length barrels start at 18″+, and since I’m building on a 16″ barrel, mid-length was optimal.
  • MOE Furniture: Magpul furniture is solid and comfortable. The basic MOE buttstock was designed to be light-weight and snag free. I was very happy with my last MOE lower, and they are still a good option today. While I used to like quad-rail hand guards, I found that I never used all that rail space, which most people would just end up covering with panels/covers anyway. If I wanted to mount a flash light, sling adapter, rail etc., that would still be an option.

The last AR I built was on a Palmetto State Armory complete lower, which cost me $300 in 2012, which I was very happy with but ultimately sold to buy Natasha, an SGL41. Boris, my Saiga 12 will only tolerate 3″ magnum shells…

Today, you can get the exact same complete lower for $160. I opted instead to buy a mid-length rifle kit for $330, and a $40 stripped lower. With a Magpul PMAG and shipping, my total cost was $399.58:

PSA AR-15 Lower Safe/Fire - 1728

What am I expecting for $400? An entry-level AR-15 that cycles reliably under normal operation and is reasonably accurate (at least no less accurate than my AKs). Is that realistic? Ask me again once it arrives! The stripped lower has already shipped whereas the kit might take a little longer. My hope is that I receive both by next weekend month, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

…and now I’m Japanese!

In his book, God, No! Signs You May Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales,  Penn Jillette fondly recalls the line, “And now I’m Japanese, so fuck off!” from the mid-80’s porno movie, New Wave Hookers as delivered by the late Jamie Gillis.

Unfortunately for Penn, nowhere in the movie does Jamie say this, or anything like it. What actually happens is that the “Vice Squad” busts in on Jimmy (Jamie Gillis) and his partner, Jamal Lincoln Bubba Washington to break up their “New Wave bitches” prostitution ring.

They confuse Jimmy with Jamal, at which point Jamal jumps up and runs off into the night in his fly, banana-yellow jumpsuit. Jimmy, in all his fo-punk glory, is left to deal with the two agents. What he says next is this:

“Hey, listen guys. Hey, I’m not Jamal, but listen, you take it from me. You’re smart enough to throw in with us, you can have any of these fuckin’ bitches you want, any fuckin’ day of the week you want. Get it guys? I mean, fuck it. Don’t you recognize me? I used to work in your fuckin’ office. And now, I’m rich, I’m satisfied, and I’m Chinese you assholes!”

Not quite the impassioned speech from Penn’s Clorox-scented memories, but there it is. Incidentally, this is all an inception-like shared dream between the two protagonists.

Does it really matter what Jamie (Jimmy?) said? Or is this just another manifestation of the Mandela Effect? Like the plastic-covered seats of a seedy porn theater from a bygone era, memories can be slippery.

When a Stranger Texts, Featuring Judge Judy!

So there I was, sitting at home, minding my own business, trying to get some work done when I get this mysterious text message from an unrecognized number.

Hilarity ensues.

Observe, all:

 

I don’t know anyone by the name of, “Alisha,” let alone one with a cute ass…Or was I the one who has the cute ass? I think I need to buy Alisha a punctuation.

Instead I decided to just go with it…

I decided to play it cool here. A suspicion was beginning to well up inside me that Alisha expected me attend her friend’s party, so I decided to give her a lukewarm response.

As predicted, Alisha counters by announcing her intent to get inebriated, then inquires about my well-being:

I maintain a relaxed demeanor and wait for the veiled invitation that’s sure to come.

My assumption was that Alisha was into older guys and Jerry Springer. I considered breaking out Matlock, but decided instead to combine Matlock with Jerry Springer to form a two-person Voltron (i.e. the Brad Neely technique), resulting in the Judge Judy counterplay:

This is where Alisha demonstrates surprising resilience, undoubtedly bolstered by the Drunken Booty-Call Bulwark™ (DBCB) defense. My improvised Easter Island emoji didn’t stand a chance – oh the carnage!

I realized that Alisha was no slouch, perhaps even – dare I say it, a pro! The way she masterfully rolled with the blow, Fédération internationale des fessiers appelants perhaps? Maybe even a Grand Master??

It was then that I decided to risk it all on the dreaded Boer Goat Gambit!

It is like that scene from Once Upon a Time in the West: I’m a Charlie Bronson, and Alisha is the Frank, and the Boer Goat is my Colt Single Action Army delivering the .45 caliber coup de grâce.

But Frank, errr Alisha wasn’t going to leave us without one last death rattle:

I decided to reply to her rhetorical question with a matter-of-fact answer, then continue expressing my admiration for Judge Judy. I had prepared a 6-page story detailing the adventures I got into on my quest to seek out the new KFC Zinger sandwich I was going use to get Ms. Kitts back into the barn.

Sadly, the lesson endeth here 🙁 …

I haven’t heard from Alisha since. I wonder what she’s doing now? I wonder how her baby sister’s prom went? So many unanswered questions. As I write this, I’m left with a deep sense of gestalt.

The way I figure it, right about now she’d be waking up, fixin’ to recover from her hangover with a Zinger from KFC and sweetened ice tea…

Alisha, wherever you are, whoever you are, know that you will always have a special place on my internets!

In Memoriam

~ Alisha ~

Why You Should Own a Primate

I just ate a pile of cornbread stuffing and two pork chops. I really just want to lay back for a nap while a helper monkey massages my balls.

I’d name him ‘Okinawan Karate Champ Erh Ku’, and make him his own little welding sleeves so he could operate the portable 880,000 BTU afterburner I use for cooking stir fry (a hint of singed monkey hair is the secret to authentic Cantonese flavor).

We Need to Establish the Cetacean Nation

We need to establish the ‘Cetacean Nation’. I nominate myself to be the United Nations representative to the cetacean nation. Then we will force the white man to give back what he has taken from us.

It is both a philosophical and cultural imperative to perform the seaweed dance prior to making contact with the dolphin spirits. Otherwise, our bodies will be unprepared to receive their awesome powers.

I, for one, have been performing a daily ritual of deep, transcendental meditation, followed by exactly three jimmy flips, two half-berpies and a Krispy Kreme enema to sharpen my senses.

The Robot’s Journey

So there’s this infographic goin’ around the interwebs about “The Hero’s Journey”. There seemed to be some strange parallels between it and my weekend, which went down like this:

therobotsjourney

True story!

DOOMed

Note: This Article was written on January 15, 2016, then shelved. Now that the “new” DOOM has been released, I figured I’d cash in on the extra traffic.

Hah! Just kidding…as if I got cash for writing these…or traffic…

In the spring of 1994, I downloaded a Shareware copy of DOOM from a local BBS (Bulletin Board System…you know, that dial-up thing what people used before the interwebs).

At the time, my rig was a stock Packard Bell SX33 (33MHz) running MS-DOS 6.22/Windows 3.11, and no sound card. That last part made for an interesting experience as there was no background music, no sound effects (apart from the beeps of the PC speaker), just silence in the dark.

In a way, it was a lot more challenging to play that way as the DOOM engine used sound both to alert enemies of your presence, and to be able to hear their grunts, hisses and growls in the distance. While I couldn’t hear the later, the enemies could still hear me, so progression through the levels was a slow crawl, sneaking around and trying to pick off enemies one or two at a time.

Between pacing and exploring for secrets, I got a lot of mileage out of the game.

Later that year, we would buy an early Sound Blaster Pro ISA sound card which came bundled with a cheap, clunky and inconvenient single-speed caddy CD-ROM drive. A good thing too as I’d later buy a boxed copy* of DOOM II from Best Buy, which came on CD-ROM instead of 3.5″ floppies.

*For the youngin’s not in the know, DOOM (the first one) was only available by mail order. i.e. You couldn’t buy it in stores. So after beating the two Barons of Hell, the only taste of the next two episodes any of us got was this nifty teaser screen. Behold, a Great Orange Cyber Demon! I said, BEHOLD, DAMN YOU!

 

doom_teaser
Later still, I’d go on to upgrade it from 4MB to 8MB of RAM, and would cannibalize friend’s broken-down Packard Bell DX66’s Cirrus Logic on-board video card memory module for an additional 512KB of VRAM, giving me a total of 1MB!

I’d also upgrade the stock 40MB drive to 560MB (Ooooh, aaah!) and slap in a math co-processor that would upgrade the CPU to a whopping 100MHz clock speed!

Those were the days…it would be another 10 years before we’d see the next Chapter in DOOM’s history, and another 10 years after that, we’re now seeing DOOM’s 4th installment.

Looking back at the E3 footage, DOOM 4 (that’s what I’m calling it because that’s what it is…) struck me as a first-person Mortal Kombat X, complete with finishing moves. They’ve brought back the HUD idea (originally conceived for the first DOOM), and modernized it to help with the suspension of disbelief for power-ups and the like.

They also seemed to have kept the generic, bland, featureless alien/mutant-esque look of demons (at least for the Imps and ‘Pinkys’)…

Joejim’s Redaction: They actually do have ‘pinky’ demons again, though sans smooth ass-crack, which is more disappointing than you’d think it would be. What I was actually looking at when I saw the demos was the ‘Hell Knights’, but since they ain’t got horns, or goat feet, they’re kinda bland lookin’ too.

pinky_ass
Whatever happened to the Satanic look of the Pinky’s, Barons of Hell/Hell Knights and so forth? There were bits and pieces of them in DOOM 3, but I never played it long enough to get that far, and it just wasn’t all that interested. It lacked character, personality…

Hark, hark! Another Redaction…kinda: They did break out a proper Baron of hell…kinda…well this one’s at least got the goat feet and the horns, but not the Adrian Carmackian (no relation) goat-skull lookin’ face – more of a squashed baby-face…does that make sense to anyone but me?

In any case, I’ve since bought DOOM 4 and have beaten the single-player campaign. The “arenas” aren’t anything new – just re-branded Left4Dead zombie rooms where the music speeds up and hordes come pouring out – only with demons… I guess that’s a throw back to Ye Olde Sandy Petersen Monster Closets. We have come full circle!

Come to think of it, DOOM 3 (and now 4) have more to do with the original Quake (not Quake II, mind you) than DOOM/DOOM II…

Think about it.

What was Quake if not a tech demo for John Carmack’s new (in 1996) true-3D engine? For Carmack, it was all about the tech and little else – sound familiar, no? Only the faintest hint a of story, and even that was mostly ripped from DOOM (YetAnotherSpaceMarine Fighting zombies/demons with teleporters to Hellish alternate dimensions).

This may have been why games built by IdTech licensees were often superior to those made by Id themselves. A sound enough business model, that was until Unreal came along…

Of course, [John] Carmack is the same guy who said, “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”

For those that don’t speak Robutese, the phrase above roughly translates to,
“Fuck you, Tom.**”

You see, ‘J-Car P0’ didn’t just consort with the Robot kind, he was one! There were plenty of great porn stories out there, but they did not compute in his robot “hard” ware…

doom_bible

** SIDE NOTE: The DOOM Bible was a design document written by Tom Hall for DOOM, in response John Carmack’s demands for a seamless (read: no levels) environment. Ironically, Carmack later reversed this decision, and almost none of the original ideas put forth by Hall made it into the released version of DOOM. Further, Carmack would go on to de-emphasize Hall’s role, eventually forcing him out of the company altogether…

Having read that document cover-to-cover, it seems to me the two were on opposite extremes; on the one hand, the charm of DOOM were the ‘good bits’ Tom squeezed in (e.g. color-coded doors, teleporters, secret rooms etc.), which are what made the solo game fun/re-playable. On the other hand, the game is better for having left out some of the more extraneous features Hall suggested (e.g. multiple player characters, lives, some of the guns etc.).

What didn’t work for DOOM made Rise of the Triad interesting and fun, but that’s another story…

In any case, Hall didn’t stand a chance. Carmack was the developer of the engine – without  him, there was no DOOM. By comparison, Tom didn’t bring much to the team…

While the Tom Hall (and John Romero)  were respectable programmers and game developers in their own rights, neither had Carmack’s discipline or ingenuity – at best, all they could offer were ways to help Carmack exploit his technology.

I often wonder where Id would be today had they managed to hold things together. What would I have done as a 20-something overnight millionaire? Would I have acted nobly? Would you?

Well I’ll never know, and unless you were a millionaire in your 20’s in the early 90s, neither will you so back to my story :)…

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new_doom_spider_mm

Will today’s generation ever get to experience games like DOOM the way I remember them? Probably not…

I recall the download took about 11 hours to complete over my blazing fast 2400 BPS modem. Might have been quicker, but this was dial-up on a shared line, so every time somebody picked up the phone, transmission interrupted. Thank Bog for Z-Modem protocol (i.e. it continued where it left off instead of starting over).

Getting the game to download was only the beginning! Then there was  hours troubleshooting combinations of dip switches, jumper blocks and configuration strings to reach the magical invocation that would allow you connect two modems and play a Deathmatch!

Somehow I just can’t imagine kids today putting up with that to play a game…
I suppose generations before mine had the same thing to say about what things were like in their day (e.g. playing chess by mail)…

In any case, it only goes to show that now is all we have. For better or worse, time marches on, and things will be never the way they were when we first experienced them, emulators and DOSBox be damned.