Pan & Scan Film Presentation. When Will it End?

When was the last time anyone has watched TV on a CRT? Anyone? When was the last time you saw a CRT television? What is a CRT you ask? Cathode Ray Tube? You see children, way back in the days when I was growing up, Televisions were these big, bulky things built into wooden cabinets. Like radios used to be.

And back in those days, all televisions were the same ratio, 4:3 and this was true no matter what actual size the screen was. The ratio was always the same, because that was the way the signals were sent. The pictures only resolved on a screen that was 4:3.  Television programs were all made to fit on this constrained size, and you gazed into it like a fishbowl. From very close up, even though your parents told you it would ruin your eyes.

Movies, never being constrained by the limitations of the electronic gadgetry that TV had to be transmitted on, were of many sizes, and tended to be far wider than the fishbowl-like qualities of the 4:3 ratio. (At least after movies started to talk. Sound. Did we really need sound?) They could conform to the actual width of the human field of vision, and could be many, many times wider than a television screen.  Back when I was young you could escape to giant movie houses and eat popcorn all day while watching Saturday morning serials.

Well, so the city folk tell me. Being raised on the Kansas prairie, I only went to a movie house when my parents were going to the city to shop. Then we might actually not just see a movie but maybe even eat at a restaurant. Go rollerskating.

But back to the subject at hand.

Widescreen movies presented a problem for television producers across the nation. What to do about showing movies on television screens? You couldn't very well leave the tops and bottoms of the screen blank. Given the course pixelation of the standard TV signal, most movies would be blurry approximations of what could be seen at the theater.

Thus was born the pan&scan presentation; in which some hack would sit in a back room somewhere and decide what parts of the film needed to be seen on the TV screen in order to communicate the intent of the scene. Since the TV producers were already editing films for audio and video content (can't say fuck in front of junior after all. Much less do it. But you can kill people. Dozens of people. That's OK) it really wasn't that big a deal to lop off two-thirds of the movie in the form of content that was outside the 4:3 presentation.

Fast forward 40+ years and you can still find films that are modified for televisions that are formatted in the 4:3 ratio. Even films that were released after the TV standard was modified to 16:9.  I don't know anyone who still has a functioning CRT in their homes as their sole source of television. The Wife and I have one fishbowl left, and when it dies it will be the end of an era in this household.  But I don't watch films on it. Haven't watched a CRT for TV for several years, and even that device was a WEGA we got secondhand from a friend. The last time we sat down in front of a 4:3 CRT was more than a decade ago.

And still TV studios are modifying films for broadcast on the 4:3 sets.  Even on channels which aren't broadcast (cable provided only) and aren't required to conform to the old broadcast standard. Why is this format still indulged? Why take the time to modify films to comply with this outdated standard? Who knows.

I can still recall a conversation with a friend back at the dawn of time, in which she lamented that she hated it when the TV studios put black bars at the top and bottom of the screen; that she much preferred it when the picture covered the whole screen. I'm sure she and others will object to the bars at the tops and bottoms of current widescreen TV's, because the films are still shot wider than even the 16:9 format. I wonder what they think of the huge black bars at either sides of their 16:9 sets?
Why are they putting black bars there?
I couldn't agree more.

Blizzard, Hearthstone and Programming Errors

I've been in a fight with Blizzard for about two weeks concerning whether I have a bug in Hearthstone or not. Here's the video I posted on Youtube;




My first video posted anywhere on the internet.  It sucks, I know. Taken on a HTC Evo shift that is 5 years old, and I don't have the steadiest hands on the planet. You know which orifice you can access if you have a problem with it.

I'm in the Hearthstone tournament as an amateur (consistently loosing but it is fun) I'm disabled and live on a fixed income. I don't have cash to buy cards with, I do this for fun.  The only way I can earn new cards is by completing daily quests in the game and using the gold rewards to buy new decks. Except I can't complete quests. Haven't been able to for over a week now.  This bug has cost me several decks of cards at the time of this writing, possibly skewing the outcome of my tournament games. I mean, I do loose pretty consistently, but if the cards are in decks randomly, who is to know what cards I might have gotten or been able to make?

Playing on a system running Windows 7 (still) Playing in casual mode. Checked today (4/20) quests advanced in ranked play, still not advancing in casual. Seriously Blizzard, this isn't a hard programming glitch to fix. Should have been done within hours, certainly shouldn't have taken longer than a day. Been more than a week now.

I maintain that they owe me these card decks, and their response is that I'm just a stupid player who doesn't know what part of the game he's playing, since not all parts of the game give quest progress.  For the record, I figured that out about two days after I installed the game and I've been playing for several months.  Started playing sometime in beta before there even were solo games to play and earn cards. So I know my way around the game, just to be clear.

If anyone is wondering, I don't play ranked play over level 20; and I hit level 20 about 5 days into this months season, so it's been awhile since I switched over to casual.  If this is another one of those undocumented changes, and Blizzard wants us all to now play ranked all the time, the quests should probably say that. Not that I will play ranked all the time, I'll simply stop playing.  Not really interested in the more cutthroat play that you get in ranked play.

In my back and forth with the CS department at Blizzard, I've also discovered that their website has a basic flaw in it's programming. The "I still have a problem" button on ticket responses disappears when clicked.  I have to start new tickets in order to respond to the previous unsatisfactory answer to a ticket they deem answered. I've tried this on multiple systems, in multiple browsers. Always disappears. Like the Hearthstone bug, it must be my login if it isn't common across all players and installs of the game. It's my breath isn't it? Not sure how they smell it all the way over at Blizzard headquarters, but I'm at a loss to explain this any other way.

This is on top of my suspicion that there is at least one active hack that is pretty common in this game, which I also mention in the video.  My tournament opponent last week was a prime example of this modification to the game. His initial deal was perfect for all three of his wins. Not only was that perfect, but he just happened to draw the perfect counter for every card that I played. Through three games. For a total of about 25 turns. The chances of this happening randomly approach the astronomical.

As the video shows, I can dispatch my opponents pretty handily when the luck of the draw runs my way. Or when my opponent obligingly concedes when the game goes against him.

So, to summarize, I don't really think the problem is PEBKAC in this instance, even though it generally is. I'm not convinced that Blizzard programmers can find their asses with both hands, in the programming sense. I mean, if you can't keep your website buttons from disappearing, what can you do programming-wise?

I can say one thing for certain.  My script is canceled for World of Warcraft as of two days ago. I'm done paying for games that I find inadequate in programming.

Posted to the Hearthstone forums here.



The early morning maintenance on 4/21/15 appears to have patched the problem. Given the amount of time the patch took, I figure Blizzard owes me at least 4 decks of cards or 400 gold.  Not holding my breath on ever getting my satisfaction out of Blizzard on that score.

Feeling a bit conflicted on the whole subject. My sense of justice is offended by games that blatantly break their own internal rules. Effort that is not rewarded offends me greatly. If I wanted to have my efforts taken advantage of, I'd waste my time working in the real world, not screwing around in a game.

When I try looking at the amount of time and energy I've spent arguing on this issue from the outside, I have to wonder at my own sanity. Why am I still playing Blizzard games, if I'm this annoyed by their behavior?

That is a very good question.

Meniere's Awareness

It seems silly to me that people still don't know what Meniere's is. I guess that is because it has become so central to my life these days.  For the last couple of weeks I've toyed with writing several articles on various subjects, including some work on short fiction that I'd like to finish someday.

But for the entirety of these last few weeks my hearing has been burdened by painful tinnitus. So loud that I can't even soothe the sound away with rainymood or any other white noise treatment. I have a hard time forcing coherent thoughts through a barrier of noise that impenetrable, much less the capacity for multiple readings necessary to weed out all the random keystrokes that slip in when you aren't paying attention.

I wandered over to a fellow sufferer's blog earlier today (thanks to my reddit habit) and noticed he had put a new entry up on it. For those of you who don't know what Meniere's is, I'll post a short quote;
Symptomatically, most people experience “attacks” of violent rotational vertigo (feeling like the room is spinning), a feeling of fullness and pressure in the affected ear, loud ringing known as tinnitus, and progressive hearing loss. Many sufferers also report nausea, cognitive impairment (brain fog), fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
Meniere’s disease affects .2% of the population, roughly the same rate of incidence as Multiple Sclerosis. Yet virtually no one has ever heard of Meniere’s disease.

Here's the bit that caught my attention. A study I'd never run across conducted in 2000. The sample size is on the small side, but it still represents a statistically valid group.  The attention grabbing quote was this one;
“Meniere’s disease patients are among the most severely impaired non-hospitalized patients studied thus far … Patients describe impairment in travel, ambulation, work and other major social roles as well as trouble learning, remembering and thinking clearly.”
While this is clearly hyperbole from an unknown author (I can't seem to track down the original article quoted) the dense jargon in the study backs up the statement. Quality of life is reduced below the levels of deathly ill cancer patients.  Very few of my vertigo attacks (frequently referred to as drop attacks)  didn't include my begging everyone in earshot to please kill me.  The sensations are intolerable, and yet you have to tolerate them. You cannot escape them. Had someone offered me an easy way to end it all while in a vertiginous state, I would have readily taken them up on it.

That is what Meniere's is like on the bad days.  On the good days I just kick myself for being unable to accomplish the simplest tasks because I'm lucky to remember my name from one minute to the next, like the last two weeks have been.  There are days I forget. Mercifully, there are whole months that go by and I'm not forced to remember why I'm not working in architecture anymore. Looking forward to having a few of those days sometime in the hopefully not too distant future.

Back to the point.  The point of writing this. Meniere's awareness. At the bottom of the Mind Over Meniere's post (I hate that blog name. Sorry. I'm sure mine is annoying to many as well) is a link to yet another Change.org petition. One amongst thousands. This one seems silly, but maybe it will have a genuine effect if Bono can be convinced to help raise Meniere's awareness.  Who knows? Couldn't hurt to have someone say the word Meniere's in front of a crowded audience.  Surely someone will notice.

The song they're asking him to announce in front of is Vertigo. It goes to show you how far out of music that I am; I don't think I've even heard the song before. There was a day when I knew every artist on the charts. Knew who they were and what they sang.  The last thing I remember U2 doing was Joshua Tree.  Are they still a thing?

Anyway. Sign the petition if you are so inclined. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn't. All I know is that I want this damn ear to stop ringing so I can organize a few thoughts.

Homophobia In Denial

I think I was being too subtle;
"Queerest Thing Happened? What does that mean?"
Let me see if I can explain this to the slow of mind.

People used queer to describe homosexuals because the idea of homosexuality scared them.  This fear is born of latent homosexuality, fear that you are homosexual.  Ergo calling something gay because it upsets you means you experience latent homosexual feelings.

To put this bluntly; if you are a man, you like to look at other men's butts. No point in denying it, we've caught you looking, so just admit it and we'll get on to the next point. 

You've been taught that there's something wrong with finding other men...
(or women, if you are one. Not as much of a problem with women, so I understand.  Being a man I don't want to speak out of turn, so I'll offer this up as an explanation of my sexism on the subject)
 ...attractive.  Consequently you think that there should be some kind of punishment involved for people who find members of their own sex attractive enough to actually engage in sex acts with them.

This isn't about christian teachings. I know it's not about christian teachings because, as Jim Wright points out here, the law that mentions homosexuality is 39th in the book of Leviticus;
No Messy Hair is more important than don’t have gay sex – seriously, go look at your bible. It’s right there. The fact that you own a fucking comb is more important to God than not having gay sex.
It's 39th, and almost none of the other rules are things that christians feel the urge to make laws about.  No wine for Catholics and no dogs as pets.  I just can't see that list as being anything worth losing any sleep over.

Having a verse in your holy book to point to that explains your reaction does not lend credence to your latent homosexual fears. It just makes you look silly when the other laws in the book are things that you'd either get awards for today (sex with three generations of the same family, here's your trophy) or laughed out of culinary school for proposing in the first place.  Much less follow them yourself, privately. Go ask any number of prominent church leaders who lead closeted private lives about it if you don't believe me.

It is a fact that a small percentage of the population are afraid of the biological imperatives that they feel. In some cases that's a good thing.  You really shouldn't go around murdering people who call out your latent homosexuality just because you feel an overwhelming desire to do so.  Some of those feelings are harmless, however, and mean nothing. Indulge them or not, it really makes no difference.

It was accepted tradition in Western society that there was something wrong with homosexuality.  It wasn't just laws in the bible, because the tradition predates the christian church. When civic law became a thing, that law was adopted because of the tradition. And why not? Look at the way they live, there's clearly something wrong with them.

Never mind that ostracizing individuals causes the very problems that are attributed to the behaviors in the first place.  Research has shown, time and again, that creating an outgroup leads to the kinds of behavior patterns seen in the homosexual community. So it's not them, it is the rest of us. It is us and our need to see ourselves as better than them.

My daughter, very rightly, pointed out that not everyone who uses the word gay to mean bad is a homophobe. I get that as well. Not everyone who thinks that there is something wrong with homosexuality is actually afraid of finding other men's butts attractive.  The vast majority of us really don't notice. We just accept that the things we've been taught are true, even though they aren't. Contrary to popular belief, there's nothing wrong with being a homosexual, if that's what you want to be, if that's what you are. There is no clinical evidence that shows harm in just being a homosexual. There is no social reason why homosexuals would be any different than the rest of us, if they were simply accepted as part of the ingroup.  The majority would be ok with that, if we simply knew the truth.

Homophobes are a tiny little subset of the larger whole.

You know the kind of group I'm talking about, a minority that wants the rest of us to behave the way they feel comfortable. So the next time you misuse the word gay to mean bad, ask yourself if you actually like that guy's butt or not. Because that is the signal you are sending. The next time you stand up and denounce homosexuals ask yourself if that guy over there (you know who he is) doesn't actually turn you on and that scares you.

Because if the answer is no, then you aren't a member of that group, and you really shouldn't be doing their work for them.  Let them haul their own baggage. Put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps it's time that we call out the homophobic for the sick individuals that they are, and prescribe for them some of the treatments that they have demanded we subject others too. Ostracise them, see how well they fare without the rest of us.

With the shoe on the other foot, maybe we can finally put this contentious issue to rest.