Friday, October 28, 2011

Comic 970: Finger On The Milk Buttons

[Noted pirate king "The Pirate King" sent me this review, which is fortunate, because I didn't actually mind this comic that much. -Ed.]

the important field

[Comic title: The Important Field; alt text: I hear in some places, you need one form of ID to buy a gun, but two to pay for it by check. It's interesting who has what incentives to care about what mistakes.]

Oh my god this is a stupid one. I mean really, really dumb, in a lot of ways.

So we see some soldier (I guess?) using the "missile launch web interface". This idea is ludicrous. Randy knows it is ludicrous. It's likely that there are people out there who believe this is how the defense department actually operates, and this comic could become somewhat coherent as a jab at them (durr hurr the medias are so dumb hurr), but he doesn't really take it that way.

It's like he's criticizing the interface of a website that doesn't exist, and if it did, that he would never, ever see, and probably wouldn't look anything like how he portrays it. And even if this weren't atrociously implausible, one would assume that the soldier would have to provide some kind of login information to get on there, and logins are always tied to an email.

So maybe he's trying to mock a more general trend in account creation? You'd think he'd pick a more accessible example, like a bank site I guess? I suppose he's annoyed that they expect you to repeat your email twice? Well that's just stupid. The email is the only part of an account that you often can't change once you've created it, because that's how they send you your reset password, so it's the most important not to fuck up. I've lost newly-minted accounts to that accident on numerous occasions.

The alt text is stupid too, and doesn't make any sense in relation to the comic. "DURR HURR PEOPLE SOMETIMES CARE MORE ABOUT MONEY THAT THE SAFETY OF OTHERS!" Well no fucking shit, Albert McSherlock Picasso.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Comic 969: Check-Up And Physical

[Mysterious emailer "Elly" sent me this review, which has physics in it. -Ed.]


[Comic title: Delta-P; alt text: If you fire a Portal gun through the door of the wardrobe, space and time knot together, which leads to a frustrated Aslan trying to impart Christian morality to the Space sphere.]

There's nothing I can say of XKCD's various artistic failures which hasn't been said millions of times already. So, let's criticize Randy's most valued thing in the world: his precious science, his physics, or more precisely his grasp of fluid mechanics(breast milk not included- let's leave that one to Rob). [Nice. -Ed.]

Now, I'm an undergraduate of physics. I took a course of fluid mechanics with one of the world's premier physicists. I only mention this to stress that when I say I had no idea how the fuck Randall got the formula he uses in this one, I know what I'm talking about. But, eventually, I found out the horrible truth:

Randall begins with Q=A*v, which says that the flow equals the area of opening times the speed of the water relative to the wardrobe. This is wrong, but compared with his future follies this is actually still pretty acceptable. Only now Randy needs to calculate that speed, and here he fails tremendously.

Randy assumes conservation of energy, which is usually a fine thing to assume when doing physics. He takes the initial, purely potential energy of the wardrobe as Ei=mgd .He takes the final, purely kinetic energy as Ef=1/2 mv^2 .Because he assumes conservation of energy, both quantities are equal and so he extracts v from that and finally gets Q=A*√(2gd).

Now, his whole process is rife with errors(the Q=A*v thing assumes both laminar flow and and an opening that is two-dimensional, none of which occur here,) but let's narrow it down to just two of the most obscene ones:

  1. There is no conservation of energy here, you dumb fuck. Friction with water is a substantial, non-conservative force which does not allow you to use even actual fluid mechanics stuff such as Bernoulli's principle, let alone the high-school-level conservation-of-energy calculations shown above which Randy tries to pass off as science. If this was true, it could lead to all sorts of shit: a cylinder that is moving in such a liquid as Randall suggests would never come to a stop or even slow down, which is obviously a nonsensical result. This is what was known historically as Stokes' Paradox, this is why the concept of viscosity was introduced, and to top it off, this was all well known for 150 years or so. Do try and keep up, Randy. This would be okay, though, had Randy tried to find the speed of the wardrobe as it hit the water, but
  2. Randy doesn't know how to use the concept of potential energy. This is some really elementary stuff. This is high-school level stuff, and Randy fails at it miserably. Randy tries to calculate the wardrobe's speed on the moment of impact with the water. He takes the potential energy as mgd, when d is the ocean depth. . To find the speed of impact he should take the height of the wardrobe relative to the sea level, and what he takes is the height of the wardrobe relative to the ocean floor. Therefore, the speed he would extract using the method shown above is not the speed of the wardrobe upon impact. What he gets is the speed of the wardrobe when it reaches depth d under the sea level, and even that is assuming friction with water is just as negligible as friction with air. This gives him a nonsensical result: Randy says that the deeper the ocean is, the more water would flow into the wardrobe- as d grows, so does the root of d. At the limit where the ocean depth approaches infinity, an infinite amount of water would flow into the wardrobe as soon as it hits the water. This is hideously, preposterously wrong. I really cannot stress out just how asinine this error is. No wonder this guy was kicked out of NASA.

Now, a real physicist would've said 'gee, this result is ridiculous, I'd better check out where I've gone wrong.' What Randy said was 'gee, this result is ridiculous, I'd better publish it.'

Monday, October 24, 2011

Comics 967 and 968: Both A Comic AND Terrible

Comic 967. This one mostly made me think that I do not want to experience what it is like to be Randy. It sounds awful.

Comic 968. Holy shit, this is fucking awful. I don't think I've ever seen a punchline telegraphed from so far away. He starts out with panel 1 saying "hey this comic is going to have a punchline which humorously* subverts the notion that I am in love with you! Here are a couple of ways in which I don't love you." Panel 2 then goes on to say "in case you weren't reading the first panel, or maybe you're just into thoroughness, here's another way I don't love you! And an explicit statement that I have many things besides you I'd rather pay attention to. But I mean, you're interesting, so remember, the punchline is going to be a humorous subversion of things like the ones I just listed. Be prepared to have your mind blown! I am pretty sure I have given you adequate time for preparation." Panel 3: "Wait for it, wait for it... here's a humorous subversion of various 'I love you' cliches! BET YOU WEREN'T EXPECTING THAT!"

It's not inherently a bad punchline, but the setup for it is utterly appalling. Much humor, and in particular this punchline, relies on subverting your expectations. The only way this could possibly fall under that category is if Randy somehow hoped that you were expecting a subversion and then the utter lack of one was funny. Even in that case it has failed, however, since it seems so clear he's trying to be clever here and just failing.

The setup for this is so distractingly bad that I can't bring myself to say anything else about it. I can envision a world in which that punchline is used in a comic that doesn't suck, but this comic is so far from that world, describing it probably qualifies as science fiction. I guess, if there is anything good to say about this comic, it would be useful as a writing exercise for students of the comic arts: "find a way to make this not suck." The resulting comics would probably not remotely resemble the original, but there might be a gem or two in there.

*please note that I in no way feel that this is actually humorous in any way, this is the result of a recent thought exercise in trying to experience what it is like to be Randy. I have avoided writing out all the milky thoughts I have had, though I may eventually scan the grocery receipts cataloging my milk purchases this week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Comic 966: xkcd sucks Was An Inside Job

jet fuel

[Comic title: Jet Fuel; alt text: The 'controlled demolition' theory was concocted by the government to distract us. '9/11 was an inside job' was an inside job!]

Normally I'm all about making fun of conspiracy theorists, because they are almost as dumb and predictable as internet atheists or jokes about how Randy has just thought of the best use for Megan's milk ever (OREOS!!!!!!). But Randy is incapable of making fun of someone he disagrees with without throwing in a strawman character who inevitably says "that is very clever of you to notice, Randy, you are as intelligent as milk is delicious and sensual."

Part of this is just the urge for post-punchline dialog, of course. I think he's afraid of telling a joke without showing someone responding to it, for fear that people might not realize how they are supposed to respond. But when he does his strawman comics, it always feels more like he's trying to cue to his audience: "See? I've thought up a clever way to fuck with conspiracy theorists that TOTALLY WORKS."

I admit I'm not given to hanging out with conspiracy theorists--I only like factually supported theories, like the fact that our president was smuggled into the US from Kenya by Bill Ayers as part of a communist plot to destroy democracy and capitalism after we thought the Cold War was over. But I get the distinct impression this would not hold water with actual 9/11 truthers, or chemtrail theorists. Which would be fine, if Randy weren't trying to give the impression that your typical conspiracy theorist would say "whoa, good point" when presented with this argument. That's just annoying. You can do better, Randy.

Well, no, you can't, obviously, or you would have done by now. But that's a thing that you say, you know?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Comic 965: Periodic Table of Terrible


[Comic title: Elements; alt text: Of all the nations, the armies of the ununoctium-benders are probably the least intimidating. The xenon-benders come close, but their flickery signs are at least effective for propoganda. [sic]]

Before we begin, I'd like to point out that Randy somehow has still not fixed the really obvious spelling error in the alt text. This is weird. Usually by now he fixes it without comment. I'm left to conclude he just hasn't noticed it yet, somehow.

Moving on. Apparently Randy has been cut off from Megan's bountiful flow of milky sustenance lately, for surely his pandering has reached peaks not unlike the twin peaks of her breasts as she lies on her bed asleep he watches her, breathing heavily.

The pandering has taken over every part of his being--but no mortal is meant to be a creature of pure pandering. It has filled him with an untold self-hate--he liked children's fantasy cartoons, but he also liked science, and in terms of science this cartoon was dumb. It put forward unscientific theories, worse even than Creationism--it was denying the existence of the periodic table of elements! It still thought there were only four of them!

"Okay, think, Randall Munroe, creator of the webcomic XKCD," said he to himself, calming his fragile nerves. "You can still pander in this comic, you just have to come up with something else. How about, uh. Who invented the Periodic Table? Archimedes or some shit? Wikipedia, don't fail me now . . . ." And so, after being distracted by the articles on lactation and chloroform, he discovered Mendeleev. He had successfully accomplished a double-pander in the space of a single text-filled panel! THE DAY WAS SAVED!

Seriously, Randy? Let's start with how completely unoriginal this joke is. Those are both from 2007, and the joke was already boring back then. With the exception of the double-pander, this isn't bringing anything new to the field. Why are you wasting our time with this? Do you seriously think that 'LOL THE CLASSIC FOUR ELEMENTS ARE WRONG BUT WE STILL USE THEM IN FANTASY EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE DUMB AND WRONG' is funny? Do you think pointing out that there is a difference between the classical elements and the periodic table is useful commentary, or anything apart from expected?

Often in XKCD, the concept is solid but it's ruined by some pretty awful execution. This is not the case here. The concept is pretty awful--the best the joke could aspire to is mediocrity in the hands of a gifted writer--and he basically gives it the worst possible execution, the perfect storm of bad comic-making. Which, well done, Randy, you got me to describe something you did as perfect.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Comics 963-964: If Comic Then Forgettable

963. lol having to open xorg.conf is frustrating LET'S MAKE A CHART

964. I think Randy is constitutionally incapable of making a comic with the correct number of panels. This one could just as easily have been a one-panel with just the poster image, but instead he created an entire worthless narrative of how Author Insert entered the dormroom and had a brilliant idea to fix the poster. That way there would only be one completely useless panel, instead of six.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Comics 961-962: So Boring I Forgot To Post

Hahaha, just kidding, I'm just a lazy fuck and was playing computer games.

961. Rumor has it Randy planned on posting another Friday comic in addition to this specific Steve Jobs-related comic. It's a tribute, it doesn't really do much for me. I found the forums on this one kind of amusing in a sad way, but it's very possible that's just me.

962. This one's also pretty boring. I'm just going to comment on the alt text, which seems to imply that 'flight' and 'math' are mutually exclusive. I wonder if Randy knows that flight instruction is actually a pretty math-intensive field? I mean, yes, joke blah blah not intended to be taken seriously etc etc but really. This is a comic where the fanboys constantly praise its creator for his attention to detail (and conveniently forget about his attention to detail every time he completely fails to pay attention to detail).

This also seems weirdly anti-nerd, which is weird since Randy loves pandering almost as much as he loves Megan's delicious milky nipples. "It's impossible to focus on nerdy things when you could be out doing something exciting," says the alt text. I've no doubt Randy's fanboys are eating it up, but still. I don't think I've ever seen such blatantly anti-nerd content on XKCD. This seems telling.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Comic 960: Shipping and Mishandling

[Comic title: Subliminal; alt text: Once you see it, you can't help seeing it every time. Until your body finishes metabolizing the mushrooms.]

Randy would like you all to know that he tried mushrooms for the first time the other day, and it was a very strange experience. He saw all these things he doesn't know how to describe! It was very odd, because Randy is a genius with the written word and artistic expression both. He tried very hard to make a comic that was very funny and that encapsulated the "gist" of his experience, but, well, no one is perfect. Instead he drew a Dalek with two big round holes in it, and a guy catching a baseball, and a guy wearing a Guy Fawkes mask (who is apparently Guy Fawkes himself--it is a little known fact that the Guy Fawkes mask actually originates from the mask that Mr. Fawkes wore when he tried to blow up parliament) who apparently has had two great slashes carved from his skull. The result, if you squint, could read 'FedEx.' To make sure you got the joke, he even used the same colors.

Being on mushrooms, Randy decided, was basically the same thing as lolrandom humor. But how would people know that he had done mushrooms, since he did a lot of lolrandom humor BEFORE he became a more enlightened human being???

Oh wait, he can just tell you, several times, that this is a joke about drugs (lol!!!!) because there is nothing like unnecessary text to beat you over the head with a point.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Comic 959: Christmas Time Is Here

[Noted copyright criminal "The Pirate King" sent me this review for the one about King Wenceslas. So, you're welcome. -Ed.]


So, we've got a christmas carol comic in early october. That's cool I guess, I mean all the stores are gearing up for the holidays so why shouldn't xkcd? Or I don't know, maybe Randall's been working on this one for the better part of a year and finally found the courage to publish it. That would make more sense given this comic's track record with timeliness.

So it's another black hat guy comic. As much as I agree that randall has totally forgotten how to do these, I find them a relief from the usual crap, ie, some horrible pun, nerd reference, or emotional bullcrap. I mean who doesn't like some good ol' fashioned trolling?

That being said, this is a pretty tired joke. It's the setup where one character is trying to tell a joke or be enthusiastic about something, and another character kills it with tragedy, and then the first character feels guilty. "How dare you say that, my father was killed by a _____!" Randall is just putting it in a different context, and one that doesn't make any sense. According to Wikipedia, an infallible source of information on all things everywhere, King Wenceslaus didn't massacre anybody. So check your fucking facts, RANDALL.

I did find a tidbit in the alt text amusing, although not in the dark-humor way that randall intended it. To my knowledge, the phrase "a thousand generations" can come from only two sources; the Bible, or Star Wars. Since Randall has made it clear he is an atheist, I can only assume this is a Star Wars reference; possibly an unintentional one.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Comic 958: Evil Contains The Seeds Of Its Own Destruction

[Comic title: Hotels; alt text: 'Rating: 1/5. Room filled to brim with semen, and when front desk clerk opened mouth to talk, bedbugs poured out.']

This is probably the closest we've gotten to Black Hat Guy behaving in what one would call the "classic" manner if one were completely insufferable. Antisocial self-interest! Randy finally remembered!

Of course, this being a day of the week, Randy's comic is full of problems. Some astute (ha ha ha) commenter pointed out in the previous thread that the inclusion of a script to post negative reviews seems counterintuitive at best. First, it somehow knows when he's staying at hotels, and it automatically assumes he'll like it. But then, since he dislikes hotels sometimes, he often has to go and manually change it. The conclusion that the aforementioned commenter came to is inescapable: the only reason the word "script" is included is so XKCD fanboys could nerdgasm over it.

Then we have panel 3. In this panel, Randy does this thing he often does where he points out the flaws in his plan, but doesn't quite seem to realize it. A single negative review won't drive anyone away from a place. It's pretty hard to find an establishment on Yelp that doesn't have at least one one-star review. Most frequently-reviewed places will have several. This doesn't have a noticeable effect on said establishment's popularity.

As Randy himself observes: "the odds of my review putting a hotel out of business are negligible." He doesn't seem to grasp that the odds of his review having any impact at all, let alone an impact significant enough that BHG is getting noticeably cheaper prices and having a noticeably easier time getting rooms, is also negligible. Perhaps if he were to employ a botnet to make hotels he likes suddenly look like roach-havens? But even then, the loss in revenues would cause a considerable hit in service quality. (Here is the part where people protest that it's just a comic and it's not supposed to make sense and where they probably suggest that I must not like (insert fantasy story here) because it has wizards in it or something. Can we just take that as said and move on?)

The rest of the comic after panel 2 is basically post-punchline dialog--not sure if he's ever done two whole panels of it before. You've got a name-drop of the tragedy of the commons to set up what I guess must be intended as a humorous exchange, and a line that you can tell Randy thought was very clever.