PC Gamer jumps the shark, fires columnists

I have been a subscriber to PC Gamer magazine for six or seven years now. I have enjoyed the magazine: its humour, the generally well thought out reviews of computer games, and most especially the regular columns by people like Andy Mahood and Desslock (Stefan Janicki). I could rely on these industry observers to give me something enjoyable to read whenever the games being reviewed failed to interest me… which was more often than not. Each of these writers focused on genres: RPGs, Simulations, First Person Shooters, and so on: I could get reasonably intelligent snapshots of entire industry segments from these folks.

In the April issue of PC Gamer, the new “Editor in Chief”, Gary Steinman, announced the end of the “back of the magazine” columnists. In a failed attempt to be humorous, Mr. Steinman described those who enjoyed these sections as expressing some sort of defect, reading the “wrong” parts of the magazine instead of the stuff he deems “interesting”. Any marginally competent editor would have actually surveyed some readers to see what they actually, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed about the magazine? That might have been wise, but Mr. Steinman didn’t do this.

I have to assume that Gary Steinman isn’t totally incompetent, and that there was really some other reason for the butchery. My best guess would be that the change was made because Mr. Steinman has been assigned the role of “hatchet man”, sent in to brutally hack off the limbs from PC Gamer and reduce costs. The whole thing will now be rubber-stamp written by largely personality-free drones from the British division of Future Media, the company that owns the publication. This will undoubtedly reduce costs. I know these kinds of things happen and, although I wish the new hatchetman…er, editor, could have been more honest, I don’t wish ill upon those who remain.

The problem I have here is that the magazine is now basically a hollow shell. It is nothing more than a bunch of miscellaneous reviews that I could get online for free without having to wade through dozens of pages of stuff I don’t care about. Months ago they actually started reprinting content from the GamesRadar.com website: yes, a print magazine reprinting web content. It would be different, I suppose, if the reprinted content was actually *good*: but instead it is insipidly written “top 10/top x” lists, barely worth reading on a website and a total waste in a print magazine. And let’s not forget the massive “cell phone games” reprints from their sister publications they keep bombarding me with: if I wanted coverage of cell phone games, I’d go buy a cell phone game magazine. With no genre focus areas and no regular personality columnists there really isn’t much left for me to pay for.

I have no plans now to renew when my subscription runs out. I wish Norm, Andy, Desslock, and the other regular columnists who got canned the best of luck. As for PC Gamer and the new editor in chief… I’m sure you just had a job to do, and did what you were told. Good luck pretending it was an improvement.

Sometimes evil makes me laugh…

I have been reading Looking For Group for several months now. It is a webcomic from the same minds that bring us Least I Could Do, Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza, and is an ongoing saga involving some rather unusual fantasy characters. Initially, these characters were loosely based on races and professions found in games such as World of Warcraft, but the connection is rather tenuous. Mostly it is about the “good” guy, Cale’Anon, and his twirl-your-mustache evil friend, the undead Warlock Richard.

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Sci Fi channel renames itself SyFy, insults all current customers

The cable content provider formerly known as the Sci Fi channel has renamed itself “SyFy”. Here is their reasoning for this rather bizarre change:

The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular. We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi. It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting. … (Changing the name to Syfy) gives us a unique word and it gives us the opportunities to imbue it with the values and the perception that we want it to have.

So in one giant leap, the SyFy channel has both insulted their entire existing client base and devised a new name that sounds like a sexually transmitted disease. It also means nasty things in Polish, apparently.

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Earthquake monitoring…

I was recollecting my first few days in our house here on the west coast tonight. We took possession of the house on September 2, 2000, and I was out here on a work assignment so I moved in well before Irene, our furniture, or our cats arrived. During my first week in the house I experienced my first noticeable earthquake. It was a little thing, and at the time I thought a big truck had driven by outside- I was alerted to it being something a bit different by the fact that the light fixture in our kitchen nook started swaying slightly.

After remembering this, I went looking to find some record of the event to correlate to my memory. I found what I was looking for at the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network web page. From that page you can look at “current” seismic data from dozens of sensors across the region, plus automatically generated “incident” pages for any quake that qualifies as “signficant”. Here is the page for the incident I recall: it took place on September 10, and was a magnitude 3.2 quake about 80 km south-west of us.

It is comforting to know that my recollection of the event isn’t too far off the mark. Better, though, is finding a place online to check seismic data in my locale. There are probably better sources, maybe even something that is Canadian, but the PNSN site seems to have a good collection of data in a reasonably digestible format.


As I mentioned previously, I’m working on improvements to my office space at home. The painting is all done, and I’ve booked installation of a hardwood floor for Monday. This means I have to (fairly quickly) remove everything from the floor of the room. That meant disassembling several computers, reorganizing wiring, and figuring out a way to keep my network switches/routers connected without anything actually resting on the floor. I thought I had it all worked out until disaster struck…

Continue reading Timber!

The Onion shovels some more in: wearable feedbags

The Onion is one of my preferred sources of comedy on the Internet. Their simulated news stories often hit frighteningly close to the truth, but every once in a while they do something that starts me laughing uncontrollably for several minutes…

“Sometimes I don’t feel like movin’ my arms”… yeah, that’s something we want to encourage 😉 For those who don’t know, Yum Brands is the real company that owns KFC, Taco Bell, and the other chains mentioned in the parody video above.

Sweet Jeebus: woman injured with saber saw sex toy…


This isn’t the usual thing I write about, but when I read about it on Gizmodo and then saw it confirmed on NBC news, I was… well, amazed. Apparently, a woman and her boyfriend decided to try something different in bed. He hooked up a dildo over top of the blade of his reciprocating saw. Power was applied, the saw cut through the dildo, and then started cutting through the girlfriend. A few more moments, and this might have been a 2009 entry for the Darwin awards….

The question must be asked: was it the guy’s idea, or the woman’s? And if it was his idea, is this a dozen rose situation? A diamond bracelet oopsy? Or a pack your bags and hit the road error? Whatever the answer, here is Kelly’s Safety Tip of the Day: Don’t buy your sex toys at Home Depot. Just… don’t.

MIT discovery could “supercharge” lithium ion batteries

One of the big problems with existing battery technologies is the charge and discharge rate. A battery that powers a device for several hours can take nearly the same amount of time to recharge, making it difficult to develop “continuous use” devices. There has been a lot of research into new technologies like super-capacitors, but production use of these approaches is years if not decades in the future. Thanks to the folks at MIT, however, we may soon have a simple alternative: quick-charge (and discharge) Lithium Ion batteries.

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In these difficult economic times, auto workers “cut to the bone” at $55 an hour

The North American auto industry is in dire straits. The economic situation is so difficult for them that they have been forced to go to their workers unions and ask for reductions in salary and benefits. In fact, these reductions are a condition of the U.S. federal government emergency loans. So it is with great relief that I have found in today’s news an update: Ford has managed to negotiate a reduction in the average hourly wage (including benefits) of their UAW employees down to the barely survivable level of $55 an hour.

Continue reading In these difficult economic times, auto workers “cut to the bone” at $55 an hour