Case Records of the Urgent Care 12: Just Another Headache


, , , , ,

Hey, it’s been a couple years since I’ve done this sort of thing. Let’s get back to it.

black-woman-with-headache-600x300A 32 y/o African-American female presented with a headache x3 days. The pain was described as being the worst around and behind the eyes. Pt said she preferred to sit in the dark. Regular Motrin provided temporary relief. Pt said she thought it might be a sinus infection. She denied any fevers, stuffy nose, trouble breathing, runny nose, postnasal drip, cough. The pain is not changed by looking up or down. Pt describes the pain as being “funny.” She denied any past medical history of migraines. Her history does include asthma, and “swollen optic nerves” found a couple years ago on routine eye exam. Pt says she saw a neuro-opthalmologist for the latter; scans of her head and a spinal tap were reportedly normal and no other interventions were performed. Pt has not had this kind of headache before.

Vitals were normal, besides pt being overweight. Her lungs were clear. She had no particular tenderness on her face or forehead. Her neck was non-stiff. Her cranial nerves showed no obvious problems. No muscle weakness or numbness were present.


Continue reading


The penalties for infidelity in MAGAland seem… slightly different for women. Even single women.


, , , , , ,

In late 2016, during the tail end of the campaign and during the beginning of the transition, Trump advisers Jason Miller (married) and A.J. Delgado (single) carried out an affair. The relationship fell apart after Delgado got pregnant, and chose to keep the baby. You can read more about the story here.

The total blowback that Miller got was feeling compelled to pass on a Trump White House gig due to the affair. (Considering what we know about our president, he probably didn’t even have to do that.) Today, Miller maintains a high-paying lobbyist gig as well as earning compensation as a Trump surrogate on CNN. In addition, he reportedly still has input with the administration. And Delgado? Well, here is what she tweeted today:


Considered a rising star in Washington until the news of the affair broke, Delgado quickly lost her job, and all her cable-news gigs. She lives with her mother, an unemployed (and, in that world, unemployable) single mom considering literally selling her el-cheapo car to pay the bills. She remains fanatically faithful to Trump, but the affection is completely one-sided. Delgado to this day regularly gets taunted by angry Trumpkins about the affair, far more than Miller does (the few people coming at him on Twitter seem to be liberals).

In the #MAGA world, women like Delgado are hussies, sluts and whores. Men like Miller, though? It’s like with POTUS himself: boys will be boys. Evangelical leaders all point out they don’t expect their leaders in Washington to be choir boys.

The above merely presented without comment.

Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, for some reason, conservative men in Washington complain about not being able to get laid. Those biased libtards, amirite?


Waiting for the next Jessica Jones season and…


, , ,

The Netflix Marvel universe has been a mixed bag, to put it mildly.

Luke Cage best represents the highs and lows of the shows so far: a stellar first half, paired with a regrettable second half. A big reason why: the intricate villain of the first several episodes, Cottonmouth, with complex and relateable motivations, was sacked in favor of a typical, one-dimensional, “Rargh kill them all” villain named Diamondback for the second half. So it went: those Netflix/Marvel seasons with great villains (Daredevil season 1; Jessica Jones season 1; The Punisher; half of Luke Cage) really fired on all cylinders, while the rest suffered from faceless, completely boring villains… usually The Hand, a bland and featureless society of ninjas whose only role in life seems to be following the law of The Conservation of Ninjitsu.

JJBut even the best Netflix season so far — Jessica Jones 1 — hit outside its weight class only because it pressed hard on a real life nerve. More than any Netflix/Marvel or MCU baddie to date, the villain was not some random gangster, abstract horror or fantasy Hitler-wannabe; rather, he was something all too real for so many of us who watched, something straight out of our own pasts… or for some, our present. Few will have their lives dominated by some analogue of Kingpin or Hela; but Kilgrave? You better believe he was triggering something awful for a lot of us. Comics, like sci-fi, can take a real phenomenon and dial it up to 11 with magic or technology to really illustrate the impact — think Ender’s Game with war, or X-Men with racism. Bigotry suddenly becomes a lot easier to comprehend when it’s directed against mutants who can control metal or shoot eyebeams.

And what Jessica Jones did with the very real issue of the abusive romantic parter… well, let’s just say that giving the villain literal psychic powers might help one understand abusers who have figurative powers over one’s mind. Powers that are no less 100% domineering than JJ’s evil version of Professor X. That season even gave us non-powered abusers to really hammer the message down, such as Trisch’s emotionally abusive and controlling mother.

But by striking this nerve early and often, the show let us ignore some of the glaring defects. Such as the regrettable decision to make Kilgrave’s power not a psychic ability at all, but some sort of nonsense about a virus that seems to work instantly and, by the show’s end, also can be transmitted by radio waves. Or the awkward and plodding pacing, most noticeable in the middle episodes.

Point being, some people gave the show a free pass on its shortcomings due to how important it was on a meta level, in addressing our own deep wounds that happened long before Krysten Ritter first put on the leather jacket. When you’re still reeling from how much the Tenth Doctor resembles your ex, you’re more likely to not notice the whole psychic-virus nonsense. This helped immeasurably with Marvel’s second-most-important character with the initials JJ. But the downside: had I not gone through ridiculous abuse of my own, I might not have taken with the show at all. Emotional stunts might get you through one season, but it’s not enough to get you through, say, seven.

Also, Netflix’s stable of writers have had trouble with JJ so far, especially with the Defenders. I remember someone on Twitter asking point-blank: “So what is Jessica Jones’ powerset, anyway?” The Defenders often had her relegated as just another fighter when her original series went out of its way to show that, other than her superhuman strength, she had no real knack for fighting and repeatedly got owned by normal humans.

The only JJ event from The Defenders that stuck out was when she stopped a falling elevator with her strength alone, to the shock of her teammates, and exactly duplicating what Spidey pulled in his latest movie. This means she has strength at least as high as the web-slinger’s, who himself is no slouch in the Marvel universe. Which, in turn, would make her by far the most powerful of the Defenders. The underlying assumption is that her psychological issues and alcoholism prevents her from reaching anything near her true potention

So anyway, I’m not expecting much with the new season about to launch in mere minutes. But unless it finds another emotional nerve to wire into — and remember, almost no other superhero franchise can pull this off — I’m keeping my hopes muted at best…

I, for one, will welcome our robot overlords


, , , , , , , ,

skynet-terminatorjpgThe most vital natural resource by mid-century will not be oil, nor rare metals or minerals, nor even data. It will be potable water. And the most vital question will be: whom can we trust to manage our water?

And forget for the moment the recent water crises in advanced regions such as California and Cape Town. The third world has been struggling with water shortages for decades. “Don’t drink the water” was the tourist’s warning in the 20th century; these days, it may as well be “Good luck finding the water.”

Buzzfeed has a representative story today, about Mexican women who have organized their own system of water trucks in an attempt to patch over their government’s manifest failures in water delivery. Instead of more long-term solutions, Mexican officials have only stuck to the short-term solution of digging deeper and deeper wells to access water, with diminishing returns and escalating geologic instability. Either way, impoverished citizens’ access to drinking water continues to wilt with each passing year. The women featured in the article struggle bravely, but water trucks are simply an inefficient and limited workaround for failing infrastructure such as pipes and reservoirs, aggravated by uncaring and corrupt public employees.

The basic problem with Mexican government officials is the same one as the taxpayer-funded employees of New York’s subway system, or the worst of Chicago’s schools, or your local DMV: They simply don’t care. They don’t care about their official duties, they don’t care about their constituents, they don’t care about anything but their own pay and benefits and to hell with the rest of you. After all, facing zero accountability from the voters or, as long as they play ball, from elected officials, why should they care?

Unsurprisingly, the black market kicks in where the government has failed. Bandits hijack these free water trucks, selling the contents to the highest bidder instead. And as with California in recent memory, rich people have no problem organizing their own private water deliveries. There’s long been two options for delivering goods and services, and when the government cannot or will not do it, the free market then takes over, whether legal or not, and the result is predictable: Those with money may avail themselves at expense of those who have none.

The left and right both champion one solution or the other — socialism vs. capitalism — with all the zeal of Calvinists arguing with Counter-Reformationists. But the fundamental deficiencies of each system can’t be papered over, or answered with glib Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz debates, or handwaved away by faith that “your side” will magically solve everything and the other side is full of baby-killing fake-news liberals or evil gun-toting reactionaries. Government will always be hobbled by the problem of uncaring and/or corrupt public employees; private capitalism will always comfort the comfortable and enrich the rich, and while the latter system is fair when it comes to Maseratis or McMansions, it’s kind of unacceptable when it comes to basic necessities of life, for all but the most stone-hearted Randian libertarians.

So what to do for water shortages, whether in Mexico City or San Diego? Keep putting faith in government officials whose one answer is “give us more money lol” and who only seem to benefit the people with the right connections? Or with private merchants, of whatever legality, who ask the same thing and also only benefit the right people, in this case the rich? Either way, the poor, and increasingly the middle class, must suffer and then suffer some more, right? What to do with the problem of both kinds of players only being out for themselves?

Enter the artificial intelligence decider. Continue reading

Cases that make it tough to oppose the death penalty


, , ,

“SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A former middle-school football coach convicted of abducting and killing a 10-year-old Missouri girl has been sentenced to death.”

How can anyone oppose the death penalty after reading a lede like that?

Merely warehousing a vicious subhuman like this until the end of his natural life, at taxpayer expense, surely must not be the worst punishment we can inflict?

And it does make it tough to justify opposing the death penalty. After all, I would not mind one bit if I read this monster got stabbed in the gut by another inmate tomorrow. And that’d be a rather more painful way to go than being put to sleep like an old dog. Why would I want to protect him from the state’s ultimate punishment?

Because that’s why. Because it’s death meted out by the *state*.

(The state of Missouri, in this case. While it’s not Texas, it’s still no slouch at giving convicts the needle.) (Surprisingly, while Texas is still the grim reaper’s best friend for total killings, it is not the leader per capita.)


(I’m not sure why Eric Trump is the newscaster but let’s run with it anyway)

Why object to *state* killings? Part of it is the specter of mistakes, of executed people getting cleared posthumously. Part is the natural bias of the judicial system stacked against poor people and people of color. But mostly because of the simple fact that it’s the state that’s doing the killing.

The moral taint of it begins with the executioners, to the technicians who prepared the inmate for his death, to the guards, to the warden, to the state legislators who pay their salaries and let this happen, to the governor who didn’t spare his life, and ultimately, to the voters.

And do we really want such a power afforded to state agents that already may deprive us of our property without any due process; wiretap us; execute us without a conviction or without even losing their jobs; and which continues to slide ever further toward lawlessness, gangsterism and thuggery, where the value of an ordinary human life continues to plummet but the value of a politically-connected oligarch continues to soar?

It’s increasingly clear that limiting the scope of government is, while very unfashionable these days, also the only way to protect rights, both from a liberal standpoint (this, abortion, sex workers’ rights, the right to not get shot for the crime of walking down the street while black) and from the usual conservative-libertarian point of view (guns, religion.) Even if that means a few horrible examples of human excrement wind up living a few more years than we otherwise would have desired.

Decline of the Washington sex scandal


, , , , , ,

It is Sunday afternoon, preferably before the end of the cold war. The local NFL team’s game has just wrapped up its televised run, whether it was yourself or your spouse watching, and the children are out playing in the neighborhood, or perhaps on the Nintendo. You put your feet up on the sofa, settle your glasses on your nose, and open up the New York Post. A homemade Philly cheesesteak sandwich, or a burger from the backyard grill, and driven home, as it were, by a glass of wine, or a can or three of some appropriately thin and tasteless mass-produced American beer, have put you in the right mood. The sofa cushions are soft underneath you, the air hums with the sounds of distant lawn mowers. In these blissful circumstances, what is it that you want to read about?

donna-rice-gary-hart-ap-promoNaturally, about a sex scandal. But what kind of sex scandal? If one examines the sex scandals which have given the greatest amount of pleasure to the American public, one finds a fairly strong family resemblance running through the greater number of them. Our golden age of sex scandals, mostly of the Washington variety, seems to have been between 1963, after which the usual code of silence regarding presidential misbehavior was lifted for good, and the early-mid 2000s. And the sex scandals which have stood the test of time are the following: Wilbur Mills and and the Silver Slipper; Wayne Hays; Gary Hart; Bill Clinton’s more benign trysts, including Monica; Eliot Spitzer; and Mark Sanford of Appalachian Trail fame. The latter’s eventual rehabilitation from his scandal, however, broke the precedent that a politician’s career must forever lay in tatters after his mistress, or mistresses, are exposed, thus ending the sex scandal’s golden age. (Conservatives may argue that Clinton broke this first; however, the fact that he was impeached at all, followed many years later by his wife’s defeat at the polls, suggest House Clinton was indeed irrevocably crippled by the scandal and by Ken Starr.)

Of the above-mentioned six cases, countless articles, books, TV episodes, and documentaries have been produced. It is difficult to believe that any recent American sex scandal will be remembered so long and so intimately — certainly not as fondly, as the prevalent kind of sex scandal has been changing. The most infamous scandal of recent years was the Anthony Weiner saga. Before returning to this pitiful and sordid case, which is only interesting from a sociological and perhaps a legal point of view, let me try to define what it is that the readers of tabloids and gossip sites mean when they say fretfully that ‘you never seem to get a good sex scandal nowadays’.

In considering the six cases I listed above, one can start by considering the motives. Sex was present for all of them, of course — but so was a sense of power, and perhaps decadence. In none of these cases were the perpetrators out to harm someone directly, although they were of course too self-centered or short-sighted to consider the unintended harm caused to the wives, the mistresses, and themselves. In more than half the cases, the desire was to secure a permanent mistress or concubine, perhaps because the politician viewed her as a natural reward for his station in life. Other cases involved a more immature, almost college-level fling; but in any event, the benefit gained by the politician almost certainly was not worth the work put into the failed efforts at secrecy, let alone the cost to his career and home life after the exposure. And in every case there was some dramatic coincidence or detail that no novelist would dare to make up, such as Gary Hart posing for a photograph with his mistress on his lap while wearing a shirt that said “Monkey Business Crew” after literally daring the press to find evidence on him, or Wilbur Mills attempting to outright purchase the strip club in which his paramour plied her trade, or a noted prosecutor of sex workers becoming known as “Client 9” of a sex worker.

With all this in mind one can construct what would be, from a New York Post reader’s point of view, the ‘perfect’ sex scandal, although none of the above are exactly perfect. The perpetrator must be a politician, as Americans hold inexplicable expectations of their public officials that they do not for, say, their business moguls. And, he must be a politician of a certain level of influence — a mere state senator or even U.S. House backbencher being insufficient to arouse our interest. He must be married, naturally, and also boast a policy background to invoke hypocrisy with his actions in some way, whether it be a “family values” stance or Spitzer’s aforementioned war on prostitution. He should go astray through cherishing a guilty passion for his intern or perhaps a sex worker, and should gleefully and with total abandon embrace his infidelity. And — this is key, as we shall soon see — his nefarious desires must also receive the enthusiastic consent of the mistress. At some point in the affair, the politician and mistress must share a trust and bond, perhaps even love, against the great danger that could, and eventually would, tear their relationship asunder.

Having decided on infidelity, the politician should plan it all with the utmost cunning, and only slip up over some tiny unforeseeable detail. In the last analysis, he shall decide on infidelity as less damaging to his career than a messy and very public divorce, as even today divorces remain astonishingly rare among top office-holders as opposed to, say, investment bankers, let alone the more influential men of Hollywood. With this kind of background, a sex scandal can have dramatic and even tragic qualities which make it memorable and excite pity for all three primary parties: wronged wife, perpetrator, and mistress.

Now compare this to the Anthony Weiner scandals. There were no depth of feelings to them. The background was not the yielding to the temptations of women other than his wife, but a bored, psychopathic congressman imagining himself as being 20 years his own junior, trolling Twitter for girls the way you or I would browse Tinder. There existed no feelings of trust or emotional connection between Weiner and his various online flirts. One gets the feeling the motivation was not illicit love, or even lust, but Weiner’s desire to show just how tough and powerful he was behind his actions. He acted with the utmost callousness not only of his targets and of Huma Abedin, but even of himself, leaving as he did a vast online trail of recorded dirt.

In this, Weiner presaged all the sorry, one-sided scandals exposed by the #MeToo wave, from John Conyers to Trent Franks to Blake Farenthold, let alone all the Harvey Weinsteins of the private sector. None of the husband-mistress emotional bond so essential for the golden-age Washington sex scandal is ever present for these, giving way instead to a gross, sweaty desperation of men never able to accept their own blunt unattractiveness to young people of their desired gender.

Also, passing mention must be made of the David Petraeus / Paula Broadwell situation. It indeed briefly thrilled Washington in a way most sorely missed, with such delectable details as the mistress’ jealously of other women; the fact that she herself was married, yet clearly more infatuated with her lover than with her husband; and the presence of a shirtless FBI agent, showing up for murky reasons. Yes, it resembled many aspects of a golden-age sex scandal, save one: even more than Mark Sanford, the straying husband survived with his legacy mostly intact, and without even Sanford’s period of repentance before he again sought public office. Yes, he had to resign as CIA head, but Petraeus was instead almost immediately given a sinecure position with a private boutique firm, his financial security and position in society thus secured for life.

But in any event, it is difficult to believe that the Anthony Weiner will be so long remembered as the old, grand Washington sex scandals, products of a stable society where the all-prevailing hypocrisy did at least ensure that crimes as serious as infidelity should have strong emotions behind them.

(in honor, of course, of the Old Master.)

That SALT tax deduction change only screws over blue states, right? Uh oh…


, , , ,

Strap in; it’s time to talk about that most awesome of topics, tax policy! Woohoo!

Nobody knows exactly what’s in the Republicans’ tax bills or what its total effects will be, least of all the Republicans. But one thing we do know is that it will get rid of something called the “SALT” (state and local tax) deduction. You see, taxpayers can currently deduct the cost of their state and city taxes from their federal taxes — and so by getting rid of this, most people will see their federal tax bills go up. Some more than others.

The conventional wisdom holds is that this is a change specifically designed to steal from blue-state voters with their high state rates as punishment for voting Democrat. Hell, conservatives even brag about this as a selling point. It’s not designed to convert voters or sway them to vote Republican. It’s there just to hurt people, thus representing the brutal ugliness of the New GOP of Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

Unfortunately, Republicans didn’t entirely think this one through.

Yes, it’s true that bad ol’ New York and California look like they’ll get it in the neck. But who else? The results certainly surprised me (courtesy of the not-exactly-liberal Tax Foundation):


So, taxpayers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa are also going to see their tax bills go through the roof, once they can no longer deduct those confiscatory state taxes from their federal. These are critical battleground states – WI only went for Trump by a razor-sharp margin. Do you think voters there remember who to blame about their tax hikes?

Also, did you check out South Carolina’s rate? 7.0% in the reddest of red states! It’s almost as high as the People’s Republic of New York! Oh, but it gets better:



Look closely. Unless you’re pulling down seven figures — as a single filer, natch — NY’s top rate won’t even affect you, while SC’s top rate kicks in at a mere $14,650 a year. This means almost all SC residents are literally paying more in state taxes than us hippie gun-hating baby-killing godless heathens up here in Babylon. Why aren’t South Carolinians asking Lindsey Graham why he’s hiking up their taxes to pay for his deep-state big-government programs?

And compared to the 6.45-6.85% that most New Yorkers pay, the top rates for Arkansas (6.90% at just $35k of income), Georgia (6.0% at — I’m not making this up — $7k) and Idaho (7.4%, $10.9k) are certainly comparable, if not higher. Wonder what the #MAGA voters there will think of how things are going when they file in 2018? I’m sure they’ll be comforted by all the tax breaks personalized for the Trump family.

Texas is usually held up as the shimmering city on the hill by Republicans, with its lack of income tax. But this ignores local and property taxes that also fall under the purview of SALT. But, hey. It’s not like Texans like big houses on big estates, right?

If Republicans had actually tried to pass legislation through the “regular order” that John McCain used to care about — hearings, studies, all that boring stuff on CSPAN that people try to ignore — instead of literally passing handwritten notes as legislation, this might have all come out. But their manic rush to get something done before 2017 is up, at the behest of their ochre overload in the White House, and with as little oversight as possible, will predictably blow up in the faces of themselves and their voters.


Battlefront II: We all understand why EA put in loot boxes, but…


, , , , ,

All the entertaining wailing and gnashing of teeth about EA’s loot-box system for Battlefront II has focused on locked heroes. You see, half of the heroes must be purchased with in-game credits before you may use them in multiplayer, with Darth Vader and Luke the most expensive of all. Which just sucks, they say. You plunk down $60 for a Star Wars game, the argument goes, and you better damn well be getting Vader right out of the box. It’s just science, man.

But this misses the bigger problem with the loot boxes, which I’ll get to later. But first:

bobaThere is no question the game both looks and plays better than its predecessors. The new single-player campaign, of which I’ve only had access to the first three missions, seems serviceable enough, relating what exactly happened to the Empire after Return of the Jedi. It has enhanced, fully customizable single-player bot skirmishes under the “Arcade” tab, and most importantly of all, the multiplayer modes are better than ever.

Troopers are now divided into four classes, which gives some extra flavor to the actual characters you will be playing the majority of the time. Your regular assault class gets a regular assault rifle that does the regular medium-range thing ARs do in all shooters, and can also switch to a shotgun as one of its three default abilities. The heavy gets the SW version of a SAW, with plenty of ammo to rain down suppressive fire, and even gets a temporary minigun power and a a shield. The officer is the weakest of the bunch, with only a pew-pew pistol, but can buff allies’ maximum health and can lay down a turret. Finally, the specialist is your basic sniper class. All of these play the same across all eras and factions; other than appearance, a droid heavy from the prequel era is exactly the same as a Resistance heavy in the era of Kylo Ren.

Speaking of, while the battles span all three movie eras, you can pull any hero you want once you’ve earned them. Rey fighting Darth Maul on Endor? Sure. Han Solo leading the charge against separatist droids on Naboo? Heck, why not? The main limitation on heroes (and vehicles, and elite troopers) is that you now must earn them with your in-game performance, kind of similar to how killstreak powers in Call of Duty are awarded; gone are the random surprises picked up from the battlefield. The more score you earn (mainly through kills, although also for playing the objective) the faster you can buy an elite unit.

This means that enemy heroes will first appear in the hands of their best players. It’s just one way that the game is more difficult for newcomers than its kiddie-friendly predecessor. Rusty as I was at FPS games, I was helplessly and repeatedly owned my first few multiplayer matches until I started getting the hang of things again. And while the game is prettier (while sporting the Frostbite engine’s strange “glassy” appearance), it’s much harder to find enemies than last time through all the chaos. In response, the game does give players a few tools to spot foes, such as the assault’s scanner darts, but many times you will simply never see them coming until you are eating dirt.

But the biggest reason of all that this game unfairly stacks the decks towards veteran — and high-spending — customers: Loot boxes are not just cosmetic. The “star cards” they yield boost each class and hero, and up to three may be used at a time. They are absolutely vital to strengthening your abilities, with everything from passive benefits to survivability to offering major upgrades to your active abilities. You can slowly grind for these with the in-game currency, or you could go with what EA would obviously prefer you do: buy premium currency with cash. It got to be a little frustrating to get unfairly annihilated by players sporting three purple-con cards in the game’s opening hours — some players obviously have been spending quite a lot of cash to give themselves this advantage.

This is straight-up “Pay2Win” and a serious transgression against what (most) players want. Overwatch’s loot boxes, for instance, offer cosmetic bonuses only, always have, always will. Some people still go nuts on these things, especially when a new skin is temporarily available, which makes the suits at Blizzard very happy — but that is of no concern whatsoever to those who refuse to spend one extra dime. Who cares if your Reinhardt has that cool orange-con costume when he plays exactly the same as mine? Yet that is not the case with BF2. Imagine if that ultra-rare Reinhardt costume also gave him +20% HP and +50% shield strength, and you have some idea what star cards are inflicting on an otherwise solid Star Wars game.

For the big hero controversy is a red herring. All heroes are designed to be roughly the same in power — Luke might be unavailable, but Rey is available from day 1 and (in theory) is just as powerful. Besides, heroes are earned only via the basic currency earned from play. The premium, purchased currency won’t get you Darth Vader any quicker. But, in a way, it WILL let you buy Vader sooner in game, because your regular troopers are that much stronger than those of players who refuse to spend extra money — letting you rack up kills and score that much quicker.

And I understand why EA is doing this. Despite all the angry redditors say, it isn’t just raw, naked greed. It’s because of what ISN’T purchasable anymore — expansions or season passes. All future DLC for this game is promised to be absolutely free — and pretty much nobody is grateful for this change, it seems. The season pass last time was an extra $40 and was pretty much mandatory for multiplayer. And EA had to replace that easy revenue stream somehow. Why not go with what has become the gold standard for enhanced monetization of games — the loot box?

Other than pay2win (which puts this paragraph in a bit of “Other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln territory), the main negative thing I can say about BF2 is that its primary multiplayer mode Galactic Assault is skewed too heavily in favor of the defenders — other than rounds involving AT-ATs or their equivalent. Most control points are too easily defended by grenade spam on chokepoints if indoors, or snipers and air-to-ground aircraft if outdoors. The AT-ATs reverse this in favor of the attackers by being nigh-invulnerable; the Y-bomber system of the first game has been replaced by shoulder-mounted missile launchers to trigger their periods of vulnerability. However, these launchers are rare; easily camped by enemy snipers; leave the players extremely vulnerable while locking on; and only grant a brief few seconds of AT-AT vulnerability. The armored troop carriers’ insanely high HP handle the rest. But, no map can be completely conquered by AT-ATs alone this time. Rounds involving these things tend to result in offense invulnerability, until they stop and the attackers must proceed on foot, leading to a defensive victory in the final round. They need to both nerf AT-ATs and also make it easier for the attackers to assault points on foot.

But it must be said that this sort of thing is easily fixed by balance patches. The lootbox system, though — I don’t see any way out. Not when the soulless suits at EA are the ones implementing that decision, and not the devs at DICE.

So anyway, I perfectly understand the motives behind the lootboxes. The execution, however, falls flat. Players maxxing out their multiplayer characters on day 1 just because they have mommy’s credit card is ridiculous, and represents the only major reservation I have against Battlefront II. The game looks iffy for now unless either you love single-player bot matches, or else enjoy throwing money at Electronic Arts like Chance the Rapper at Scores.

UPDATE: EA has temporarily cancelled the purchase of loot crates via premium currency. It may come back; it may return as a cosmetic-only thing; they may come up with something else entirely. All that said, pay2win in SWBF2 is for the moment DEAD; and given that, I change my recommendation to a qualified buy. It’s still the best Battlefield/Battlefront FPS I’ve played since Battlefield 4; unlike Call of Duty, DICE’s games do have a place for thinking and strategy over mindless twitch.

The medical world needs a #MeToo moment. It won’t get it.


, , , , ,

Some kind of dam has burst lately, and for whatever reason, predatory men are finally — finally! — getting their comeuppance after years, often decades of abuse of women. The Harvey Weinstein story triggered a flood of others: Mark Halperin; Leon Welseltier; John Besh; Knight Landesman; James Toback. Reporters made sure their victims were heard. And prior to this, FoxNews’ Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes and Eric Bolling saw their falls from grace for similar reasons.

Hospitals and medical colleges could use such an accounting. But they won’t get it. See, what do all of the men above have in common? All are well-known to the media, to the reporters that sourced the stories and the editors that green-lit them. Know who’s not well-known to these people? Doctors. Any of them.

And not just lowbies like me. Let’s say a veteran big-shot department chair or residency program director at Columbia-Presbytarian or NYU-Langone has a long history of Weinstein-level lechery directed at female residents, interns, nurses and so forth. Let’s say five victims are willing to go on record, as with Halperin. No reporter would care. Not even in huge institutions in a media market like NYC. They wouldn’t know the chair of cardiothoracic surgery at their nearest hospital if he slugged them in the face.

24MOLEST-master768The only time doctor malfeasance becomes newsworthy is if legal proceedings have already been initiated, usually of the criminal variety. Take Dr. David Newman, a well-respected and published ER doc at Mt. Sinai, who decided to subject his patients to his perversions. The cops and prosecutors did all the work, with the media doing nothing more than transcribing the legal proceedings, and he was convicted of assaulting four women — but how many more were there? These jackasses always have a long track record of abuse. How many more women would have come forward had some journo, any journo, made some calls and did some digging? Neither Weinstein nor the rest of the rogues’ gallery mentioned at the top have even been charged — all got theirs from damning news stories. Can’t the Times or NBC or anyone spare a single soul for this?

They might counter that doctors aren’t household names. Well, neither were James Toback or Leon Welseltier. But the latter were already within the orbit of the media world. Reporters have them or their agents in their contacts list, as well as many of the victims. But they don’t have such contacts in the medical world. It’s simply not a sexy beat. The only time doctors show up in articles are as experts — institutions actually curate lists of experts for journos on a deadline to call up.

Your average reader won’t ever find themselves in the hotel room of a sleazy movie producer or news editor. But they will find themselves in the examination room of a potentially sleazy doctor, or will be asking one for a job or a reference. I suspect there is an epidemic of abuse by physicians that would make for some explosive stories — if anyone would actually care.

It’s been four years since we last saw Skyler White — and her misogynist haters.


, , , , , ,

Skyler-WhiteIt’s incredible. I literally feel like it’s only been a year or so since I last saw a Breaking Bad ad on the side of a bus. But today, I came across this piece by Morning Gloria marking the end of the show clear back in 2013 — yes! I checked! — by saying goodbye to all the toxic male Skyler White haters, who have all presumably gone on to become Rick and Morty fans.

One reason why some men hated Skyler was, of course, sheer misogyny. They couldn’t take some female intruding on “their” boy’s stories of meth-dealing crime. We saw the same hate directed towards Lori on Walking Dead; January Jones’ character on Mad Men; and Corrine Mackey on The Shield. All those shows shared an over-the-top machismo, and a lot of their fans would’ve loved nothing more than to see the female characters relegated to passive, voiceless objects, never getting in the way of the “real” (i.e. male) characters.

There’s another part to this. All of these characters also serve the role of the buzzkill. The moral prude. Skyler, more than any other character on Breaking Bad, represented an implacable (well, until she wasn’t) moral objection against Walter’s drug empire. She constantly interrupted the viewers’ fantasies of being a bloodthirsty criminal, never mind that bloodthirsty criminals are, well, bad. Corrine had a much weaker nature, but still served the same role for Vic Mackey. Betty Draper served as an insufferable drag on the booze-filled misadventures of Don and the boys, and so on.

Of course, misogyny is still the greater explanation of why people hated Skyler White. Nobody sits around hating Inspector Javert, after all. And whatever moralizing Lori was doing on Walking Dead, it could not hold a candle to the humorless, useless judging of fucking Dale. As I put it on a Tumblr post 4 years ago:

Season_two_dale_horvath“…he was such an ineffective, weak, whiny character. He did nothing to actually try to help guide or command his compadres – heavens, no, that would actually take strength of character, or require decisions that might tarnish his unsullied moral self-image. No – all he ever did was stare, stare, and stare some more in mute horror whenever Rick or Shane took some decision that he judged morally unworthy, condemning them for their moral turpitude while never, ever offering a useful alternative solution. Sometimes he would offer some banal useless platitudes that wouldn’t even pass muster on an after-school special, but most of the time he would just stare. Stare, judge silently, and do nothing else.”

Seriously, fuck Dale.

Yet this clown never received an ounce of the abuse hurled Lori’s way. If it were Gail instead of Dale, though, the actor would probably be in witness protection.

Anti-hero or villain-protagonist shows often need one or more uncorruptable boy scouts to serve as a foil to the main characters. Some of the reporters trying to stop Frank Underwood, for instance. But the problem is that they all wind up being starched suits, about as fun as a rap on the knuckles with a ruler. Writers on these shows are really forced to portray their paragons of virtue as effete, whiny little rules lawyers, because there’s no other choice–

surprise motherf_er


It turns out, it is possible for lawful good characters on these shows to still be badasses. No-excuses badasses at that, who have their own agendas beyond just being Mean Mom. Their conflicts with the main characters become dynamic battles of will instead of just hectoring and scolding. James Doakes, above, on Dexter. Captain Aceveda and Jon Kavanaugh on The Shield. The FBI guys on The Sopranos. Lieutenant Daniels on The Wire.

Notice anything they have in common?

All these anti-hero shows are written and run largely by men, and I’m wondering if it all comes down to a problem with the characterization of women that Doakes there was exempt from. I don’t mean to psychoanalyze Vince Gilligan, but how much of writers’ or showrunners’ mothers and wives are showing up in these female leads? Notice how there’s no equivalent in Shonda Rhimes shows?