So, the financial idea for the 21st century:

As of 2008, Americans carry an average of 3.5 credit cards. The average debt per household is about $16,000. That was in 2008, it’s safe to assume that these numbers have grown in the past 4 years.

Also, it’s safe to assume that most of these cards are rewards cards. Either cashback bonuses for use, airline miles, double airline miles, etc.

The problem with the number of cards people carry is a function of quantity (they don’t fit into your wallet) and how do you maximize rewards points and other variables, such as balance and interest rate.

A solution is a single system (online, of course), where you enter in each of your credit cards (a la PayPal). This system talks to your credit card companies to get the balance on your account, the interest rates, your maximum balance (including cash advance) and any rewards programs that they offer.

You’d buy something using this single credit card for every purchase. (Maybe a POS card would be a more appropriate name.) The backend system would authorize the transaction to each of your cards on file, and upon approval of one (or more), the merchant would get an approval notice and for them, the sale is  complete. However, the backend system wouldn’t bill your card just yet. It’d attempt to analyze the purchase you just made.

Was it gas? If so, charge the card that offers gas rewards point or cashback. (Assuming it was approved and you have available balance, of course).

Was it food? Charge a different card that offers restaurant rewards points, instead. (Assuming the above, as well).

Were reward points available for use on one of the cards and could they be used for this purchase?

Etc. Etc. Etc.

Did you want a cash advance? Choose the card that offers the lowest cash APR of the ones you have available. Possibly splitting the charge up amongst the cards for either ease of paying off next month or for balance purposes.

A user could also set a priority for what cards get used. Such as, use the card that gives airline miles over ones that give rewards points. It wouldn’t even be terribly difficult to show the cash value of each – and which one is actually the “best” reward. The system could also make sure that no card goes “unused” for periods of time, which can negatively affect a personal credit score.

The end user benefits, especially if the system could talk to the credit card companies and enroll the customer in rewards programs. Discover, for example, changes its cash back offers every quarter. So you have to call to re-enroll in the program to get maximum benefit on certain purchases. This would automatically enroll you, and if Discover changed their 5% rewards to restaurants one quarter, instead of gas, you’d start using your Discover when you went out to eat. And a different card for gas, instead of Discover.

A nominal fee could be assessed to users. Or, the card could simply have a higher than normal discount rate at the merchant processing it. Passing the fees along to them. Rewards cards do this already; so that is not even an entirely new concept.

In addition to credit cards, gift cards could be added to this card – and since most gift cards are thrown away and not used (or not fully used!) it’d allow customers to both use these more efficiently and more completely. Other swipe cards could easily be added, as well.

This sort of system would make credit/debit card use more efficient and the customer gets more rewards in the process. Credit card companies are ensured their cards are used more often (people often forget to use given card for months at a time) and incentivizes them to offer more rewards to attract more customers. It’s a win-win for both sides of the spectrum.

So Star Wars, the Old Republic is having a free weekend so I decided to give it a whirl. Here are my quick thoughts on this game, pro’s and con’s. Probably same things written by many other people, but oh well.

Pro’s:

  • Voice acting is fantastic. It makes you feel part of a real story, instead of just clicking buttons. Even if the quests are the same (kill, fetch, deliver), you actually feel like you are doing something for somebody. That’s awesome.
  • Combat is very dynamic. No more standing around while a spell is casting. Move around and shoot your guns. Neat!
  • Crafting/gathering is cool. It’s kinda neat to send your companions off to do this instead of having to do it yourself. And the results are pretty random, too. That’s awesome.
  • It’s gorgeous. Bright, colorful and obviously very Star Wars-y.
  • Dialog options. I was being a jerk most the time and It was a blast. I got some people airlocked in the first dungeon (LOL!) and then abandoned some chick to the Empire at the end (LOL! LOL!).
  • The follower system is neat. Mine had a love/hate relationship with me. I’d do 1 thing he liked, then 2 things that got minus loyalty (or whatever). Wasn’t sure the point of his loyalty was, so what do I care?

Con’s:

  • It’s an MMO. Lots of running around turning in quests to people.
  • Lots of talking. And the option choices are very much illusory. From some, I can tell no matter what I pick, it’d lead to the same dialog anyways. Some responses didn’t even make sense to what I’d selected.
  • Too many “heroic” quests. I didn’t want to group up to do a quest, but more than a few times I was forced to. That’s really stupid, IMHO. It just turns you into a beggar looking for people. Yes, I get that they want you to be social. That’s fine. But if you don’t want to be? Then shut out of some content; that seems weird to me.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game this weekend. It’s a blast and I’m not surprised it’s taken off as quickly as it has. Will I subscribe? Probably not. But it got me talking about it; which I wouldn’t have otherwise. So that’s something, I guess.

So I enjoy watching reality shows. I admit it. I’m fine with it. I like that they are “unscripted” and seemingly random – so you don’t see the same story over and over again. All sitcoms show the same situation over and over again, just with different actors. But it’s always the same story. We know the outcome. It’s just how we get there that’s in question. Boring.

So, reality shows are much better entertainment. But can we do something about these things here? Don’t insult my damn intelligence. If you are “scripted” – don’t make it obvious. Yes, we get the stars of your reality show are the heroes and need to win; but let’s not make it obvious that you are skewing the show to make them heroes, okay?

The moment a reality show does something obvious fake, that I feel is just insulting to my intelligence, I never watch it again. Let’s do a few cases in point.

My wife hates that I watch these shows. Especially Operation Repo. I no longer watch this show. Not really because of her, or Sonja or anyone else – but it thinks I’m retarded. Yes, at the end of the show it says that these are recreations of repos and not filmed live. I know they aren’t real. I can tell. I’m not stupid. But don’t throw it in my face, okay? A season or two ago, the guys had a repo with a dude who pretended to be from the FBI stalking this lady. They need to repo his car and he tells them that he’s a government agent or whatever. No one believes him of course. The lady comes storming out, claiming he’s a stalker and what not. So they drive off with his car. Funny. I laughed, I admit it. But this most recent season, this same dude comes back and is a government agent again? And they believe him? Really? The short spanish dude was at both scenes. He can’t have not recognized this guy. But here we go, thinking the viewer is a retard – and suggests that this guy is a real government agent. After last season establishing this same guy as a creepy stalker? C’mon. It’s insulting.

SyFy (fuck you and that retarded name, by the way) has a new show called Monster Man. Shows this Paul Bearer type guy who makes monsters for movies. Okay, cool premise. Thought it’d be something like Face Off, showing you how things are made – and it does this. But anyways. First fucking episode. Dude from The Asylum wants them to make a two headed shark for a new movie they are making – probably for SyFy, cuz the premise is too damn stupid to make it to theatres. Anyways …. so the dude goes off to do research on a shark. Me? I’d watch some shark documentaries if you want good footage. He goes on a boat (ugh, really?) and then into a sharks cage (and you wore your stupid makeup? ugh). The footage they show of him underwater with a shark is obviously doctored. One time they pan away, and the shark moves in a total opposite direction, so you see that it was obviously inserted into the frames. Really? On your first episode? So, anyways, the Asylum guy wants a two headed shark and brings him a picture with 2 heads on top of each other. What idiot would even think of this? Of course, you’d want them side by side so – you know- both mouths were functional? I know the Asylum makes some crappy movies, but c’mon this is beyond the pale. So the dude comes up with a better design (side by side! wow, that was hard!) and the Asylum dude ponders it like he’s really thinking, “No, I seriously came in here thinking that shark head over shark head was fucking brilliant. Also, I’m retarded.” So he stands there for a few minutes (high drama! will he like the design?!?!) then says that does work better. No shit, sherlock. Thus ended my time with Monster Man. Blatantly insulted me twice in a single hour. Good job.

Finally, remember that biker bar show on TruTV a year or so ago? That show lost it when they did an obviously faked surveillance scene to catch someone’s mom doing something or other. Who knows. Who cares. But the cops in that scene were so obviously faked and the situation so obviously retarded. I’m not surprised that show got booted off the air. Yeah, that was the last time I watched that episode too.

Alligator Boys is already getting to this point, too. Good show over all. But c’mon. Stock footage of the same underwater alligator in nearly every episode? And in one episode, the dude with the cowboy hat says, “I never have to get in the water. That’s what he’s for!” Five minutes later, something magical happens that requires him to get into the water, of course. Ugh! He decides to get on a boat, which he promptly sinks due to stupidity and is swimming with the alligator and the other dude. Fuck me. Really? Sinking a boat, so you get a big HA-HA about getting in the water? Geesh. Just make the show about their job and lose the stupid buffoonery. It’s a decent enough concept as is.

C’mon. Can we not get people ruining shows about weird people doing their jobs? Stop writing scripts for people who aren’t actors and can’t even make you suspend disbelief. Some of these reality shows are becoming more like pro wrestling every week. Don’t ruin my already pitiful excuses for entertainment.

So this is a spoiler post. If you don’t want to know the Mass Effect 3 endings, don’t read it. Pretty simple. You’ve been warned.

So, at the end of Mass Effect 3, you get a choice of 3 endings. Control the reapers, destroy the reapers or join with them. Controlling the reapers is symbolized by blue (paragon) but the pre-selection sequence shows the Illusive Man, who is clearly red (renegade). Using this option ends the reaper invasion, by letting you control the reapers. Destroying the reapers is symbolized by red (renegade) but your pre-selection video shows General Anderson, who is clearly blue (paragon). Using this option destroys the reapers but also kills the Geth/Quarians and most technology. The third option is a symbiosis option or something, which is the happy middle ground I guess? You enter a beam of light and alter the DNA of everything to become a hybrid of machine/organic life.

But let’s step back a second. So the catalyst is a child? Or something, I guess. He’s the kid you’ve been seeing in your dreams, who is also the kid you saw die when you left earth at the beginning of the game. Wait. What? Yeah, I don’t get it either. And he lives on the Citadel or something. Waiting for the crucible, which he has no idea exists – because it was created by many disparate races over the different cycles that the Reapers have attacked the universe. Wait. What? It’s not logical.

But take a step back from there and let’s talk about things that -were- good ideas in the ending.

The idea that the reapers only harvest technologically advanced species, leaving the less evolved ones alone. This is why humans/asari/krogan/etal were left alone last time. This makes sense, if you presume that Reapers are feeding off the technology and energy from these cultures. It also follows from this that the spider things on the Citadel are taking a sort of silent census, your presence on the citadel determines that your species is advanced enough to be assimilated. I forget their explanation in the original Mass Effect – I think they were explained as the Citadel care takers or something, they ignore everything around them and just repair/maintain systems.

So every 50,000 the reapers come and destroy the species that are too advanced and are thus occupying the Citadel. If, as explained in Mass Effect 3, the reapers destroy everyone because they don’t want them to get to powerful to destroy the reapers, then wouldn’t it simply just make sense to destroy the Mass Relays? Since that is what allowed most races to advance so quickly – by pilfering knowledge they gleaned from these devices. The Illusive Man even says that humans have developed more in the past 100 years than they have in the past 10,000. So really, the reapers are bringing about their own destruction in this sense, aren’t they? If the reapers’ goal is to prevent societies from getting too advanced, then why not slow down their progress? Clearly, the method would be to destroy the Mass Relays.

It just seems like a convoluted plan by the reapers. Near nonsensical. It rendered the plot of Mass Effect 1 as irrelevant and pointless. And Mass Effect 2 as equally pointless. Why make a human reaper if your goal is to destroy the humans? Maybe there were other reapers created in similar methods? An Asari-Reaper, a Krogan-Reaper, etc? This would lend support to the catalyst’s claim that they are helping these races ascend. But no evidence of such is seen. Instead, Asari are turned into Banshee’s, etc. So the goal is different for each race. Why turn humans into husks if your goal is to make them ascend? It seems counter to the point.

Either the catalyst is lying (possible) or the writing just doesn’t make sense. I’ll go with the latter.

So anyways, let’s say you choose the symbiosis option (entering the beam). You die; apparently. Robots and organics merge into a new DNA structure. Normandy crashes on some planet and Robot Joker and EDI get to get freaky or something. So, I fought to save the galaxy so Joker and EDI could have sex? Really? I know I’m oversimplifying, but it’s not a very satisfying conclusion.

You choose the control the reapers option. You die, apparently. Reapers leave the planet. Normandy crashes onto some planet and Joker and (insert your love interest) leave the Normandy. What’s weird here, is that I had Liara on the mission -and- as my love interest. Yet there she is. I had assumed she died running towards the beam thing. Bad writing, again? Poor forethought?

You choose the destroy the reapers option. You live, or so you can infer from the final glimpse of y our body.  Rest is identical.

Maybe the ending is just a dream and you do die on the way to the beam or are severely injured and the rest is imagined? This is somewhat possible as the rest of the game plays very oddly – you get a gun with unlimited ammo. You are injured, then suddenly not so injured. After the Illusive Man dies, you are lifted into a beam of light with obvious allusions. Then the choice of heaven or hell, as perceived by the gatekeeper (the crucible).

But either way, you have no real option as the ending. Mass Effect 2 left you with destroy the reaper ship or don’t. I opted to destroy it, and didn’t do the other play through; but there was a real choice with apparent consequences – especially given that the ending to ME3 is different if you didn’t destroy it (in some endings, the earth is destroyed).

All in all, 3 pretty terrible endings for an awesome franchise. During the game, I had assumed the catalyst would be something stupid (it was) but that it’d channel the power of the Mass Relays to destroy the Reapers somehow. Or, in a worst case scenario, you lose this “cycle” but you get a movie that shows your “progress in this cycle” allowed a future cycle to complete the crucible and finally destroy the reapers. This would have made Liara’s “time capsule” near the middle of the game relevant instead of a few pointless Paragon/Renegade points.

That might have actually been an interesting ending, too. Shepard, sensing defeat at the hands of the Reapers and knowing that the reapers ignore primitive cultures, orders Liara to fire her time capsules at planets where life is just starting to gain a technological foothold. Thus giving them a head-start, and consolidating all the data on the crucible so they aren’t working from behind in future cycles.

That probably would have made everyone’s sacrifice very worthwhile. Not for themselves, but for their prosperity. And that would have been a pretty good way to cap off this series.