Geek / Technical

I Can Finally Make My Own Robot!

I’ve reading a few different articles about the new robotics kit being sold at Radio Shack. PC Magazine had a review of the new VEX Robotics Design System.

At about $300, it isn’t exactly cheap, but it is definitely a lot better than getting a kit that makes only one kind of robot. Those kits are usually not more than toys. VEX RDS is inspired by the kit handed out for the FIRST Robotics Competition. I never took place in the competition, but I can imagine it is a lot of fun.

I always wanted to build my own robot, but I never wanted to use the kits I had seen before. It would be like writing code but being told you can’t do anything but copy it from a page in a book. Sure it would be cool the first time, but I would want to be able to make my own creations. Now I can.

Geek / Technical Politics/Government

Why Monopolies Are Bad

My friend Larry Garfield posted about Yahoo!’s poor customer service recently.

Essentially, someone managed to get access to his Yahoo! account and changed the password. Larry contacted Yahoo! a number of times, and each time he got a scripted response that naturally didn’t help. I personally use a Yahoo! email account, but Larry doesn’t. He does make use of Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Groups and a number of other Yahoo! branded communities. Losing access to all of these, especially as an admin for a number of groups, would be terrible. Larry described how he couldn’t get support because the zip code on file was apparently wrong, and Yahoo! support basically says that “according to their TOS it’s my fault and they’re going to refuse to talk to me anymore.”

This, my friends, is known as a monopoly. This is why monopolies and oligopolies are a very bad thing. If you don’t like that Yahoo Support is impotent, where else are you going to go? Do I get a new account and orphan dozens of mailing lists and put myself at risk of the same lack of support again? Or do I dump Yahoo, the dozens of mailing lists I’m on, the dozens of people I know on Yahoo Messenger, and lock myself out from some very active and often pleasant online communities?

Granted, there are other places to go. Google Groups, IRC channels, etc. But there are problems with going elsewhere, since not everyone you talk to will move as well. What Larry just described is called “vendor lock-in”. When people complain that they are tired of getting burned by security issues in Windows but are too invested to move on to greener pastures, that’s vendor lock-in. When you’re told “do it our way or don’t do it at all”, that’s vendor lock-in.

I personally haven’t felt the need to move to GMail since I was actually happy with Yahoo! Mail. I didn’t care about 1GB of email, since 250MB was pretty huge already and I didn’t see the difference. On the other hand, Google’s probably got much better customer service. After all, point 6 on their philosophy page is “You can make money without doing evil.” For one thing, their login for GMail is secure by default, unlike Yahoo! Mail.

Geek / Technical

Debian 3.1 Released

Good news for Debian fans: Sarge is now Stable!

Debian has a number of releases. The stable release is locked down and only security updates make it through, and I believe it is argued that, while usually out-of-date, it is the most stable distro release out there. Testing is where development can happen, but things are still rather well tested. Still, things can break, but it isn’t often. Unstable is where all new development occurs, and it has been called a developer’s playground. Expect things to break often there.

Debian gives their releases code names. Traditionally, these names derive from Toy Story. Currently, “Sarge” is the new Stable release, and “Etch” is now the new name for the Testing release. “Sid” is always the name of Unstable. It’s apropos since Sid was the name of the neighbor who would break all the toys.

Debian has always had a reputation of being safe yet useless since Stable had such old versions of packages. Now, even Stable/Sarge has, KDE 3, Firefox, Thunderbird, and many more applications.

While I’ll still make use of Testing/Etch, even people new to Gnu/Linux will have an incredibly stable, solid, and modern distro.

Game Development Games Geek / Technical

Difficult Questions About Video Games

I recently bought Difficult Questions About Videogames from PublicBeta. They are giving it away “free”, saying that it is £100 off and I only had to pay shipping…yet the book arrived with a price on the back cover of a little over £14. Not sure what that’s about…

Anyway, I actually like it. It asks questions like “What is a videogame?” and “What is gameplay?” These are terms that get thrown about in game reviews and general conversation, and yet no one has a definitive idea about what they actually mean. Also, they use videgame as a valid word, but some of the responses they received questioned its validity since it should be “video game” much like rap music instead of rapmusic.

And it is amazing how different everyone’s opinions are! Some people make a distinction between video games and computer games, claiming that the former involve dedicated proprietary machines whereas the latter makes use of general purpose computers and software. Others make some incredibly arbitrary definitions in my opinion (usually played with thumbs? Seriously?). My favorite was: “Pass.”

It is clear that the language of video games isn’t very clear. Everyone knows what a video game is, and yet everyone disagrees about the exact definition. We apparently can feel good gameplay, yet can’t say what be improved for something that has “bad” gameplay.

It’s hard to believe that with video games being as popular, profitable, and important as they are, we still don’t know how to talk about them so that everyone understands what we mean. At first “what is a videogame” sounds like a simple question, but if you try to define it exactly, you can quickly see that it is a difficult undertaking. Difficult Questions About Videogames is definitely a good read for game developers and players alike.

Game Development Games Geek / Technical

Will Wright’s Spore

I finally had a chance to sit and watch Will Wright’s Spore presentation at the GDC. Yes, I’m probably the last to do so, but I found out through from Game Girl Advance that even though I missed GDC, I still could see the presentation.

When I first read the articles about it, I remember getting very excited. Now that I’ve seen it, my only request is that it be available for Gnu/Linux. B-) If anyone knows anyone at Maxis/EA, can you please pass that request along? Thanks.

Anyway, there is almost always talk about how stagnant the video game industry is. Most of the highly anticipated games are sequels, and usually just better looking ones at that. Nothing truly innovative about them. People say that we don’t want more of the same, but if you look at the big sellers, we do. Games like SimCity and Katamari Damacy occasionally come along and are new, fun, and easy to get into, but most innovative titles tend to get great reviews but poor sales. I have yet to play Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, but I heard that it was an amazing step forward for games of its kind. Sales figures, however, say that most gamers didn’t care. Then the sequel, Warrior Within, was released. Apparently the developers of this title decided to play it safe and go with what worked in the past. Sales were great.

Was Warrior Within a good game? I haven’t played it, but I heard it was. Just not as great as Sands of Time. Half-Life 2, Doom 3, Unreal Tournament 2004…all of them sequels, all of them basically first-person shooters. Vehicles, shadows, and gravity guns are their claim to fame. The next Unreal Tournament looks awesome, but then, you could compare it to Half-Life 2.

That’s not to say that I think these games are bad. Far from it. I’ve always felt that people tend to put too much importance on innovation. Sometimes a good game is just a game that is fun to play. Imagine if there was only one copy of every game type. Would it be better if Wolfenstein 3D was the last FPS? No way! The ability to actually aim in three dimensions is a nice feature to have these days. Better user interfaces make for better games, even if you are playing what is basically the same game. At the same time, if you are only going to play games that invent new genres, you will miss out on a lot of quality games while you wait.

Will Wright’s Spore, on the other hand, shows that huge leaps in innovation are possible, and it also demonstrates that you can mix genres with great results. Granted, the game isn’t out yet. All I’ve seen is the presentation he gave. But the capability to make the kind of game he is talking about is definitely there. And you don’t have to be Will Wright to do it, either. He said that his biggest bottleneck was convincing himself that it could be done.

Most new game developers learn that they should never undertake a huge project when they don’t know how to do anything but come up with an idea. Start smaller. It’s good advice, but at some point, when the developer has more experience, that good idea has to be brought back out into the light. Everyone had that RPG they wanted to make. Everyone had that cool game mechanic they thought would make Super Mario Bros 3 so much better. After all, there had to be something that made you want to make games in the first place. You didn’t want to just make puzzle and Pac-man clones all your life, right?


Looking at the project ideas I’ve come up with, I can see that they are impotent in comparison to Spore. I could console myself with knowing that Will Wright and Spore put a lot of game developers to shame; however, I’d rather push myself to do better. I can come up with much better ideas than what I have now. Yes, ideas are a dime a dozen, but that just means I can afford to come up with a few hundred or a few thousand. One of them is bound to be the beginnings of a great game.

So I’m optimistic about the games of tomorrow. Spore shows people that they can do much better. I’m sure others will make fun games that are innovative. And I’m also confident that I can be one of those developers.

For now, I still need to finish my first project, even if it is based on a clone.

Personal Development

May’s Monthly Review

It’s eye-opening to review your progress towards your goals every so often. GTD advocates will push for the weekly review. I try to use my Saturday mornings to go through my non-urgent snail mail, enter my monetary transactions into GnuCash, and update my calendar. I’m still pretty new to using GTD techniques, but I already know I can make huge progress. And while the weekly review is great, I know that I need to also schedule other reviews to keep myself on track, especially when I miss a week or two…or three. Maybe four.

That’s how May was for me. I wasn’t nearly as productive as I have been in previous months. I wasn’t keeping on top of things. I meant to keep a list of items on a pad of paper with me, but I almost never had it updated or nearby.

I did manage to make a simple game, as I mentioned in the Learning Kyra series. In the last article, I mentioned that I was considering the project complete and moving on. Apparently I didn’t listen to myself. I’ve already changed it a bit, and I’ve decided that I will continue to work on it until it is fully polished. Menus, levels, etc.

I unfortunately haven’t touched this project in weeks.

So I can see that this month wasn’t very productive, and yet I did manage to do certain things regularly. In fact, if I was this productive years ago, I would have been happy. So what went right?

The Unix utility calendar was an amazing tool for keeping me on track. It’s a command line tool similar to the Mac application Remind, which was covered at a few months back. Basically, you enter a date, a tab, and single line into a file called calendar in your home directory. When you run calendar, it will tell you what’s going on that day, and you can also set it to tell you what happens for an arbitrary number of days or on a specific date. A portion of my calendar file:

Mon PROGRAM: 2 Hour
Tue PROGRAM: 2 Hour
*/SunLast Chicago Indie Gamer Meeting (last Sunday of month)
6/11/05 Game in a Day: Theme == Fusion
6/12/05 Game in a Day: Theme == Fusion
7/16/05 Game in a Day: Theme == Ghosts
7/17/05 Game in a Day: Theme == Ghosts

8/20/05 Dentist Appointment @ 9AM

So as you can see, I have set aside Mondays and Tuesdays for programming a couple of hours a day. I also have some specific dates. This coming June 11th and 12th are the dates for Game in a Day. I also have a dentist appointment on August 20th. The last Sunday of every month is the Chicago Indie Game Developer’s meetup.

Ok, so now they are all in a file, but that’s not entirely useful by itself. What is useful is that the command calendar can be set to run whenever I login to a shell on my Gnu/Linux system. I added the following line in my .bash_profile:

calendar -l 7

Using “-A 7” would do the same. When I login to a shell, it will output what will happen for the next week. For today, for example, calendar -l 7 outputs:

Jun 02* DLC: Meeting
Jun 02 Open Source Seminar
Jun 03 PAYDAY!!!
Jun 06* PROGRAM: 2 Hour
Jun 07* PROGRAM: 2 Hour

Since I am always using my computer, this tool is great. Every day I am aware of the coming week. Even if I am not updating my own paper calendar, I always update the computer listing. I’ve been using it for months, and I keep track of appointments, weddings, and deadlines with ease. Even when I am having a poor productivity month, I will at least not forget important birthdays or anniversaries. Which reminds me…

And the fact that I am being reminded of anything means that I am keeping things in my head when they should be down on paper. Therefore, I’ve dedicated June as the month when I improve on my ability to track goals and progress.

Geek / Technical General

Wikis and Collective Knowledge

Wikis are great resources for collective knowledge. Wikis are counter to the culture in which copyright and patent laws encourage scarcity and “mine vs yours” debates. When everyone in the world is involved in a project, you would think it would break down, but they don’t. You would think that defacement would be a huge problem, but it isn’t. Most defacements are caught within minutes on Wikipedia, for instance. Anyone can make changes, but anyone can revert changes as well.

Wikis are great because anyone can make changes. Something missing? Add it! Spot an error? Fix it yourself! It’s open source hacking, but you don’t have to know how to program to participate. You just have to know how to write. It’s been used to document things publicly, such as software projects, but it is also used privately. Supposedly The New York Times used an internal Wiki for its staff.

I’ve contributed to a few Wikis, and I know more changes have been made since then by others. Post a comment and let me know what your favorite Wikis are!

General wikis:
Wikipedia: the free, online encyclopedia
Wike-Wiki: documentation on using Wine
Wiki Science: a Wiki about Wikis?
A Wiki in the Desert: about the game A Tale in the Desert

Game Dev:
Game Programming Wiki
Indie Wiki
Game Programmer’s Wiki
UnrealWiki: about the Unreal Engine

GCC Wiki: about the Gnu Compiler Collection

KDE Wiki: about the popular, open source desktop
Gentoo Linux Wiki: all about the popular Gnu/Linux distro Wiki: learn all about Linux

Game Development Geek / Technical Politics/Government

Software Patents? No Thanks!

I just read an article on Gamasutra titled It’s Just a Game, Right? Top Mythconceptions on Patent Protection of Video Games. I am interested in news and articles on software patents, and I’ve always been against them. While I believe patents can cover a physical invention, like a better mousetrap or printing press, I don’t believe patents should cover things like mathematics or intangible ideas.

You want to protect your software? Copyright covers your needs. It’s cheaper, and it’s faster. Trademark will protect anything from logos to specific characters. But patents? Way too expensive. They also bring the software industry to a standstill rather than push its progress along as claimed. Patents are supposed to be granted for non-obvious inventions. Most software patents are for obvious ideas. Anatomy of a Trivial Patent shows how easy it is to make something obvious sound incredibly complex and inventive.

When I read this article, I was hoping to receive information that either supports my view or gives convincing arguments for the opposing view. What I read, however, was lame B.S. about the “merits” of software patents. I will now go through each of these myths getting “busted” throughout the article.

Myth 1:
The first Myth being “busted” here is that you can’t patent computer programs. The truth is, you can patent specific ideas that are used in video games, but the author decides to argue this myth by first pointing out that you can patent the computer/console hardware. Huh? He then gets to the software portion:

  1. “Scoring based on goals achieved and subjective elements” sounds awfully familiar. Oh yeah, it is because most games with scores give you points for doing certain tasks, and the idea that you can get points for doing things in a cool way isn’t all that innovative, is it?
  2. A patent on the use of a machine? Again, not the same argument here.
  3. Sega’s patent on making characters run out of the way of an oncoming vehicle. Something that happens in CARTOONS and real life all the time!
  4. Battlefield strength and morale in a strategy game. Aren’t board games using this mechanic? Couldn’t I just as easily call these elements something else, like “popularity” or “happiness points”?

He also talks about how you can patent the distinct way a logo appears on the screen. These are actually the also-controversial “design patents”. I think trademark would do just fine here. In fact, that’s what trademarks are perfectly suited for because that’s what they were made to protect! Let’s look at the entry in the US Patent database: D487,574 has a list of other design patents that say essentially the same exact thing:
“The ornamental design for an icon for a display screen, as shown and described.”
“The ornamental design for an interface for a display screen for an electronic device, as shown and described.”
“Surface ornamentation for a handheld computer or a computer-generated icon for a handheld computer.”
“Icon for a display screen.”

Aren’t patents supposed to be granted for inventions? What’s so inventive about each of these that the others don’t already have prior art on?

And in any case, at no point is the “myth” that you can’t patent computer programs actually busted. You can patent techniques and algorithms, not whole programs. Nice try, author.

Myth 2:
The argument being made here is that even if you make a clone of a game, you have to have something unique about it, right? Patent that unique thing!

I create a power-up that makes the entire screen turn upside-down. Is that really going to be considered patentable?

Myth 3:
This argument says that while a patent might take a long time, you can get provisional rights, giving your application power even if your patent isn’t approved yet. Also, there is this quote:

Additionally, this may be another example of selling yourself short. Many inventions are broader in scope than the particular embodiment first produced by the inventor, and a good patent attorney can help an inventor identify the true, full scope of the idea that has been invented.

No, a good patent attorney can help an inventor identify the wording to make an otherwise specific “invention” cover a broad range of other “inventions”. You can patent “a mechanism for keeping point totals in order” and now you control the Top 10 List, but if you patent “a mechanism for displaying data in an arbitrary order” you have now patented not only the Top 10 List, but also end-game statistics for all kinds of games. Essentially, the author here is trying to convince you that there is a lot of money to be made by making your “invention” as broad as possible to cover as many possibilities as possible.

Myth 4:
Suing is expensive. The author ignores that point by arguing that patents are used for more than simply suing. Fine. But this line:

A patent portfolio is also a good defensive tool. Competitors, who will no doubt take advantage of the patent process for themselves, will think twice about suing you if there’s a threat of you suing them back (i.e., a countersuit).

Yeah, I’m sorry. No. If IBM, Microsoft, or probably even EA decides to sue you, your single, measly patent isn’t going to do anything. These companies will likely claim that your patent is actually making use of one of their patents. Imagine coming into a water-balloon fight with a pack of balloons, and the opponent holds the only water hose to fill them. That’s what it is like. IBM has argued that its huge patent portfolio is a great set of assets not because they receive licensing revenue, but because IBM can write whatever software it wants. NO ONE can go to IBM and say, “Hey, you’ve infringed on my patent, so give me money!” because IBM will return with, “YOUR patent makes use of any number of the thousands of patents we have. You can go away now. Oh, and you’ll also let us license your patent at no real cost to us. Have a nice day.”

Myth 5:

The “spirit of innovation” works best when there is a free market of ideas, and consumers are better off if video games are not patented.A classic argument among those who feel that the entire patent system should be abolished. You might want to make that argument to your representative in Congress, because unless the Constitution is amended to do away with patents, they’re here to stay.

The quote above is one of the examples that really showed that this article wasn’t meant to be informative so much as to persuade through deceit. One, people aren’t arguing to abolish the entire patent system. People are arguing that certain types of patents, specifically software patents, shouldn’t exist. The second statement implies that the Constitution already mentions patents, when it doesn’t. The Constitution grants the power to create ways to reward people for progress, but doesn’t create any specific power, like copyright or patents.

The patent system changes. So does copyright. It isn’t a far stretch to think that some changes are better than others, and some changes are just plain bad. The ability to patent software is one such change.

In the last paragraph for this “myth buster”, he talks about Ralph Baer, who supposedly gets credit as the father of video games. Don’t most people believe that Nolan Bushnell did it first? In fact, the author mentions Pong, which is technically Bushnell’s game. Bushnell opted out of a patent infringement suit by Magnavox because Pong was based on Baer’s more complex Ping-Pong game. Other companies lost lawsuits, and Magnavox made a lot of money. The author then mentions that Spacewar was created by Steve Russell.

Unfortunately for him, Russell did not seek patent protection on his concept, and did not document his development efforts as well as Baer. We will never know how history may have been rewritten had Russell sought patent protection on Spacewar. The moral of the story is simple: you should act to protect your inventions.

It sure sounds like it. Baer makes millions, and Russell failed. No, wait. Let’s remember who Russell was. A programmer at MIT. He made the first game that would be distributed with the computers being used at the time, which were mainframes. Trading programs wasn’t called piracy back then. It was called sharing. And you did so with tape, not disks. No one downloaded anything over p2p networks.

Russell was a student, and he hacked just for fun on the new DEC PDP-1. No one at the time thought to make money by selling software, let alone games. So Russell wasn’t trying to make money off of his game. Once again, the author is trying to convince you that software patents are great by offering up hints of ideas that you will hopefully turn into facts in your mind. I know the story, and so I knew that this comparison was horribly contrived and the language implied something that isn’t true. How many people know about Steve Russell and Spacewar? How many people reading this article would think that Russell “failed” with his game while Baer succeeded with “his” Pong?

If that specific paragraph in the author’s article doesn’t convince you that this author is trying to sell you something, I don’t know what will.

Myth 6:
Patents are expensive. The research prior to filing may be cheaper than ever, but the filing of a patent costs serious money. Maybe EA can afford to pay the thousands just to patent games, but indie developer budgets can easily double or triple due to filing costs. Don’t forget that if you have to sue or defend yourself, your lawyers will cost money too. Not everyone will make millions by suing people who make card games.

In the end:

Video game innovations will play a large role in determining who shares in the ever-growing multi-billion-dollar video game industry. As more and more companies enter the market, and spend more and more resources developing those innovations, protecting those innovations will become even more critical.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up a bit here. If the Constitution grants the power to create things like copyright and patent laws to promote innovation, and more companies are entering the market and creating things, do we need MORE protection? Doesn’t this just contradict everything the author himself was saying? Patents allow for progress. There is more progress. Therefore, we need to “protect” progress? From who or what are we protecting our “inventions”? The author doesn’t say. The implication, of course, is that other people will take your “invention” and start making money from it, and you need to protect yourself.

We don’t need software patents to make software. Software patents don’t promote progress. They stifle it. Most software patents are being used defensively. Microsoft, IBM, and others trade licenses, and no real lawsuit gets completed anymore. “You can make use of our XOR patent if we get the right to use your patent on computer animation with color.” Not everyone is Microsoft or IBM, and so not everyone would benefit from software patents. The only real reason given in the article is to do it because everyone else is doing it. Get them before they get you.

Software innovation happens in spite of software patents, not because of it. If everyone who wrote software had to do a lengthy patent search before writing code or releasing projects, how many projects would be dead due to IBM alone? As the author explains, ANYTHING can be patented, so it isn’t like software patents are documenting actual inventions.

Software patents don’t protect anyone but large companies. They are expensive. They cover ideas, algorithms, and mathematics when patents are supposed to cover actual inventions. And even more important, the author was clearly trying to deceive rather than provide actual information. Can someone give REAL arguments for software patents? It doesn’t seem so. Most arguments “for software patents” tend to sidestep the issue and claim that patents are doing what they always do. Such arguments ignore the fact that software development is not like building vehicles, and they ignore the actual question: should software patents exist?

I believe they shouldn’t.

Some links:
League for Programming Freedom
Paper arguing that software patents would actually reduce innovation and progress (PDF format)

General Personal Development

Barriers to Success

Top Barriers Limiting You From Your Dream Job is an article that is making its way around the blogs. It’s a good reminder that it is very easy to make excuses for not accomplishing anything. Lack of time, fear of change, obligations, and the fear of being wrong are among the 10 items listed.

I really wish that I had learned years ago that “I didn’t have enough time” is not a valid excuse. Today I know that a lack of time isn’t really a lack. Every day has 24 hours. Every day is the same. If I didn’t have time to do something specific, the problem is more about my lack of committment and action plan than about the lack of a 25th hour. I didn’t really do a lot of game development these past two weeks. Is it because time went by quicker? No, it is because I let other things take up the time I would normally dedicate to development. Playing Wizardry 8, for instance. B-)

On another note, the human imagination is amazing. As children, we used the imagination to play games or pretend to be something bigger than we are. We’re super heroes! We’re firefighters! We’re saving the princess! Making the world a better and safer place!

As adults, most people use their imagination to worry. It’s always used to worry about the negative consequences. Imagination is rarely used to explore opportunities. I think that the fear of being wrong is just another symptom of the problems of “acting your age”.

Today, there are so many paths to success. Allowing any of these 10 barriers to prevent you from being great would be a tragedy.

Games Politics/Government

Violent Video Game Ban Passed in Illinois House

I read this article in the Chicago Sun-Times. Apparently the Illinois House passed the law 100-6.

Someone on the Indie Gamer forums posted a link to the FTC study that gets cited a lot by the Governor. Let’s look at the findings:

Ability of a minor to purchase an Electronic Game: 85% in 2000, 78% in 2001, and 69% in 2003
Ability of a minor to purchase a DVD: no data available in 2000 or 2001, but 81% in 2003.
Ability of a minor to purchase a movie theater ticket: 46% in 2000, 48% in 2001, 36% in 2003.

Now, this study only shows whether a minor was able to make the purchase. It never details whether or not such purchases are being made normally, so there is no indication that there is a problem in the first place.

But remember, the Senior Advisor to Governor Blagojevich says “Whether such inappropriate purchases are part of a widespread problem or not, this administration thinks that no child should be able to purchase these types of video games without his or her parents’ supervision.”

That’s a perfectly valid point to make. If you believe that children shouldn’t be able to purchase violent video games at all, then that’s fine. But all the studies cited make mention of television and movies. Are inappropriate purchases of DVDs not as bad? 81% is a LOT. Even if it isn’t part of a widespread problem, should children be allowed to buy R-rated DVDs? Apparently so. And at 36%, it is clear that the movie industry isn’t the great self-regulater that it’s made out to be. 36% is a LOT, and the Governor’s office has made it clear that there shouldn’t be ANY minors buying inappropriate video games.

And there you go. “Protecting the children” sounds all well and good, but it is not consistent with the actions of the government. I’m sure you’ll forgive me for not believing that it is the goal of such legislation to actually protect children. If it were, then the laws would do something meaningful at the very least. You don’t cite studies saying that television, movies, and video games have an effect on children, but then only show outrage at the popular scapegoat of the year.