• Suspension of Agency

    In narrative mediums (books, comics, tv shows, movies, recordings), Suspension of Disbelief is an integral piece for a consumer to appreciate, enjoy, or even accept the basic premise of fictional works. In video games, Suspension of Disbelief exists, but I want to propose that something subtly different also exists: Suspension of Agency. Suspension of Agency is loosely defined as the player accepting the mechanical restrictions and lack of mechanical systems which enable Free Agency. I say the difference between the two is subtle because at first it isn’t obvious that the difference particularly matters. When Suspension of Disbelief is combined...

  • Violence and Free Speech

    In the previous post, we examined a very abstract notion of violence as it relates to Speech. In this, we shall look at a more literal expression of violence with regards to Speech. Violent Speech is a necessary component of violent actions. Ranging from simple ideas of committing violence, to outright insurrection, Violent Speech is about exerting change through force, generally at the expense of others. However, one can leverage Speech which is far from outright violence, and yet is itself also a necessary pre-condition for violent action. One can look towards Speech which questions the overall value of a...

  • Examining: Violence is Never the Answer

    “Violence is Never the Answer” is a complex phrase, one for which I shall show has no clear position of acceptability. Is it true? Is it needlessly idealistic? There might be exceptions, but do those exceptions reveal something greater? And how does the phrase relate to social organization? I implore the reader to not read this with the assumption of being convinced of a position. First, let’s examine the intent with the phrase. It is meant to declare that violence isn’t the answer, but it also implies that there are other answers. It doesn’t promise they will be easier, or...

  • Words

    One of the more complex phrases I like to think about is, “Words can only hurt you if you let them”. There is a lot in this single phrase, and the more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t certain if the phrase was contradictory, deep in its understanding of human natures, or willfully blind to the humanity that birthed that phrase. The first thoughts I had on this were that, well of course (in a more suprised kind of way, rather than condescending), words themeslves only have the meaning that I ascribe to them, the value that I...

  • Flaws

    Have you ever wanted something to be true, so much that you also wanted to find a flaw in it? Not because you want it to be wrong, per se, but rather because you can’t find a flaw large enough, and are afraid you could just be plain wrong? The rationalization is odd, yet compelling: you want to believe its true, yet lack the rigor to undoubtedly prove it, and so by finding any flaw at all you can convince yourself that, while you don’t understand all the pieces enough to know it is true, you don’t have to pretend...

  • Immortality

    The humble, or rather those not immediately pre-occupied with their end, imagine real immortality as the memory of oneself living on in others. It’s a kind of immortality, but one in which your self is ripped into pieces, and scattered across those still full with life. These pieces have no whole, no skeleton, and no self to maintain to persist any longer than as fleeting memories. It’s simple, and requires little effort other than to leave any kind of impression on others; but, it doesn’t feel like immortality. The not so humble, or rather those indefinitely pre-occupied with the question...

  • Democracy is not Compromise

    In general, with the kinds of Democracies we talk about, its winner-takes-all (first past the post) voting that makes Democracy inherently antagonistic to the process of Compromise. This isn’t to say that Compromise doesn’t happen under Democracies, but there is a lot to understand here for how exactly Society’s ability to Compromise on subjects is itself compromised. Real quick, we need to define a couple things. Democracy in this context means voting on topics, issues, candidates, bills, etc. To not make this too complex, let’s just say that a vote is considered Passed if some percentage of the votes cast...

  • Tear Up Your Argument

    Ok, I have a fun game for you guys to play. You’ll need a bit of imagination, though. So, imagine Spongebob, waving his hands in an arc-like fashion with a rainbow trailing behind and him saying “Imagination”. I could link to the actual image, but I need you nice and primed. Did you imagine Spongebob? Perfect. Then let’s start. Imagine that your argument is a piece of paper. That, when its whole and solid, its a solid, whole argument. Now, tear apart your argument. Really attack it. Make sure you truly get down into the details, the facts, and the...

  • Empire of Sand

    Gazing upon the world, confident in the mastery of their domain, they see those without their sand and wonder, do they not see our empire of sand? Unable to resist the pull of knowing, an emissary is sent from the empire of sand, to meet the empire without. With an unsure start, the emissary of sand blurts, “What do you build from”? The without respond, “We build with hearts”, the emissary of sand understands: the empire of hearts. The without from the empire of hearts asks, “May we exchange some of your sand for our hearts”? the sand emissary presents...

  • Apple and the FBI

    Generalia Specialibus Non Derogant, meaning, the provisions of a general statute must yield to those of a special one. [1] CALEA, in Section 103b1 of that act, the Feds gave up authority to require any specific design of equipment, facilities, services, features or system configurations from any phone manufacturer. [2] The All Writs Act: “…may issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.” The AWA is a general provision. CALEA section 103b1 is a special provision, which specifically states what the FBI and courts can’t compel Apple...

  • Imps

    Imps are everywhere. They are tiny little red things with big claws and hypnotic stares, but appear harmless. Some people even keep them as pets. Lots of them. They covet these little red-demons because they see them as friends. Imps, though, are far from friendly. What is an Imp? An IMP is Image Macro Politics. Its when images, of politicians or some kind of representation of a “value”, is overlaid with text explaining why a political position is correct, or how another position is foolish. Imps like these are incredibly dangerous, as they miss many key aspects of rigorous thought,...

  • Philosophy Matters

    I post quite extensively about Philosophy (or at least pretend to), and usually with questions rather than concrete answers. I would hazard a guess many people like Philosophy, but don’t quite feel that it impacts their every day lives. I don’t say this to belittle or condescend. I sense this is the general feeling of many because of how Philosophy is portrayed. Its generally a kind of negative thing, it appears useless, and when people do think its useful, its undeservedly downgraded to “opinion” status, where anything and everything can be true so long as you believe it. But that...

  • Dominion

    One of the first board game clones I wanted to create was for Dominion. For clarity, game terms are denoted in italics, whereas Objects as defined in the code are denoted in highlights. The clone I was making is currently behind a private Github repository, but the source can be made available as an archive if asked for. If you are familiar with the game, skip to the next section. Basic Gameplay Summary Play Action cards Play Treasure cards Use Buys to purchase new cards Clean up, and Draw Five new cards Each player has their own Deck of 10...

  • Trust, but Verify

    “Trust, but verify” is a fun phrase to think about. The general idea is that the receiver of information isn’t in the wrong to trust the source, but should still be verified to determine the accuracy of the information. The trust aspect is important, even if it first appears redundant, because if you didn’t trust a source to even provide the most basic of verifiable and correct information, it would never be considered, or even bothered to be verified. Why waste time on something you know will very likely be false? Here is where the thought experiment begins. Let’s first...

  • What This Blog is About

    I resisted adopting a blog for a variety of reasons, but the most important to me was being able to see what I had previously written and write a reflection piece. This was one for which Facebook was poor at being able to do. It wasn’t obvious how to keep them all in one place in Facebook to make searching for them easy, or how to link to a previous post for readers to provide context. I much prefer personal interactions when dealing with complex topics, as I feel it leads to improved understanding and context for the individuals involved....

  • Decontructing the Executive Branch

    As my final piece deconstructing the Executive branch of our Democratic-Republic, I believe this to be the most scathing, and the most damaging to its image. One of the more interesting aspects of our government is what happens when they get something wrong. A bad decision (Judicial), bad execution (Executive), or a bad law (Legislative). Our system of government includes measures for correcting errors that we as society identify. However, there is a huge imbalance, which I’ll reveal in a bit. First, let’s start with the Judicial. Historically, the case that is referenced when the Supreme Court “got it horribly...

  • The Equivalence of Guns and Encryption

    I wanted to have some fun comparing encryption to gun ownership at a Constitutional and policy level. First, let us cover some similarities (I don’t see all these similarities as true, but are claims made against both by media/people. I am listing them because its interesting): You are unable to export either, and can technically be persecuted for doing so (for encryption, this was relaxed in 2000, but still has some restrictions.) Used for attacks. Amendments back the usage of both: 2nd Amendment and 1st/4th Amendment (sometimes encryption gets the 5th). Both are used as a rebellious tool against corrupt...

  • Wars Undermine Democracy

    For more thoughts on the absurd reality that is Democracy and Military activities, one need look no further than presidential hopefuls. Take, for a moment, these two assumptions: that a large part of military intelligence is secret, or at least not widely distributed to the public. The Executive chooses which parts to declassify or publicize whenever they see fit. Secondly, also assume the Executive isn’t operated by trustworthy or completely truthful actors. How does one operate in this scenario? Well, obviously in any case where the government is deceitful the populous has few tools for discovering and correcting fraud. The...

  • Propaganda

    Propaganda’s primary mission isn’t to get you to believe in lies. It never was. Besides, convincing the public of small or even large not-truths isn’t difficult. No, propaganda is effective precisely because the public is never able to ask or even consider the real questions. Its just buried. Propaganda isn’t a poster asking you to join the war. Propaganda is when an organization tells you the exact opposite of what they want the public discourse to be about. Here are some of the defining qualities of a successful propaganda campaign: Divide and Confuse - Create multiple fictitious or irrelevant sides...

  • Game Theory as Applied to the Use of Force

    When trying to imagine a game-theoretic model for gun-owners and non-owners in Stand Your Ground states, I was rather intrigued with the difficulties in developing a complete model. But, I was also stumped by the kinds of assumptions that had to be made in order to assign relative pay-off values and risk probabilities. Does the gun-owner value their life more, and so carries a gun, but only for when they feel imminently in danger? That may change their assumptions to try to force a more peaceable outcome. However, what if the gun-owner didn’t value their life anymore than the non-gun...

  • Death

    Death is a rather contradictory affair, one of great loss and unending wonder for those left living. It is a constant pull, a tendril which ceases to retreat from our struggles against it. Death, though, is not experienced only by people. For the smallest of virus and bacteria to the largest of aquatic creatures struggle to perpetuate their existence. If we are willing to be just the smallest bit more imaginative, we can expand our thinking further. To some of the smallest of things, such as photons, to the largest of things, like super massive black holes, all things eventually...

  • Logically Absurd

    I kinda dislike logical puzzles. They are better described as absurdist creations, with some logical restrictions to give you some kind of challenge. Like the cars puzzle, or those chain/ring things that are all locked together but can be undone or aligned or whatever, or that stupid spherical ball maze thing. “Why would someone tie up all these rings like this”? “What kind of valet parks the cars like this”? “If I tilt this maze just right I ca-NOOOO” In stark contrast, computers are very much logical creations, but with absurdist restrictions. The quotes below sum it up much better:...

  • Popular Tyrants

    “As President, I would….” “If I were elected President, I promise you…” When you ask children these questions, you get a lot of silly answers, like, “No school”, “free ice-cream Wednesdays”, “Every family must have one dog, one cat, one fish, one horse….”, and many other equally bizarre answers. They are naive, of course, but we don’t expect the children to understand our complex and multi-layered government. Mostly, we are interested in hearing what the child values most. When we ask actual Presidential candidates this question, you get all kinds of things, but what is surprising if how often those...

  • Fiction: Familiarity and Invention

    To me, the most interesting aspect of fiction (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, or just regular old Fiction), is always the balance between familiarity and invention. Familiarity, or relatability, is when aspects of the story- place, time, social structures, physiological/biological creatures, things, and the motives of characters- which conform to the worldview and expectations of the audience the author is writing to. For example, the most common familiar aspect is the protagonist or central character being human, heteronormative relationships, and the stereotypical desires and wants which push the character through the conflict. Now, when authors are crafting imaginative worlds or times...

  • Adam Lanza, School Shootings

    As some of my friends know, I am from Newtown, CT, where the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings happened years ago. I haven’t written about it yet, mostly because I have struggled to figure out what perspective I wanted to write, what to write about, and why. The article I posted a few days ago, Why we All Miss the Point on School Shootings, talks about Empathy and how that is what those school shooters needed. Now, its really easy to read that and think, “Yea, lets just all love each other, then our problems will go away!”, or more...

  • Morality

    For what would be of morality, if not for the imperfection of man? For what is humanity, if not for the imperfection of morality? Well, we would probably have a few less cryptic or cutesy sayings; twisting around the English language for the ever so detestable proliferation of one-liners. But that could just be me.

  • No Greater Truths

    . – No greater truths need be explored. Despair! For all things have been revealed, and all nothings overturned. There is no other pursuit or worthy cause, just absolutelyness. For what, you want more? Want not! Know nothing, you know? Know not! Ramblings of the void, empty is the sanity of the content, of the sure. The twisty, windy, turny, labyrinthine halls of imperatives torn down for the clear. Levity only fills those whom embark from impatience. Let not wisdom entomb the seekers.

  • Duke Freshman Doesn't Want to Read Fun Home

    This article, I’m a Duke Freshman, Here’s why I Refuse to Read Fun Home really bothered me when I read it, and I had a difficult time articulating the reasons why when I was going back and forth on why I didn’t agree with the author. Of course, I encourage you to read the article first. Nor do I claim my understanding of this freshmen’s philosophy on life is perfect, given it was reduced to an article. So I will be arguing the contents of the argument, rather than against him specifically. Probably not necessary to mention that, but o...

  • Meaning

    Beware those who found a meaning in our universe, for they will destroy you in the name of that meaning. But fear most those who accept the absurdity of our universe too easily, for they are as indifferent to you as the universe itself. Find comfort among those who admit no understanding of our universe, for they are preoccupied with whether anyone would notice if they ate another cookie.

  • Democraticized Information

    Allow me to describe for you a creature. This creature has no physical form or shape. This creature has a heart from which its passions are sourced. It has no brain and only a kind of distant short-term memory. Its a kind of aggregation, but with no purpose. This creature is dangerous. It is pervasive yet unpresent. This creature is relatively young and has grown tremendously in import and size recently. Most curiously, however, this creature has a wide grasp, and sweeps huge arcs with its many extremities as it flails madly to smash or grab whatever its heart demands...

  • The Conspiracy Theory

    Conspiracy theories are great. But, what if the real conspiracy is all the conspiracies themselves, to prevent the public from ever learning the truth about anything? But that would be absurd. I mean, at least one conspiracy has to be true, right? But which one? And, if more than one, is there some greater conspiracy at work? If not, does that mean that every conspiracy theory has more likelihood of being true, by virtue of anything potentially being a conspiracy? And what of the conspirators themselves, do they not benefit from an environment in which many conspiracy theories exist? It...

  • Marriage

    When talking about Marriage (mostly constraining the conversation to the USA), it was understood as a Christian Marriage, which was defined as between a Man and a Woman. Today, we see arguments and desires to change that definition, to include two Men, or two Women (and transgenders). But there is a strange aspect to all this that is missed in the larger discussion. Christian Marriage is still the way it was. The Supreme Court didn’t say that the bible’s definition of Marriage changed, only the definition that the government recognizes for writing Marriage certificates. Those certificates ultimately have lots of...

  • GMO

    Referencing this article, House To States: Don’t You Dare Demand GMO Labels "”Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered products has no basis in legitimate health or safety concerns, but is a naked attempt to impose the preferences of a small segment of the populace on the rest of us,” said Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the bill’s primary sponsor.” GMO foods are an absolutely necessary part of our food supply. They are as safe as whatever you might call “organic”, and actually have much high safety qualifications for what the GMO seed might do than any other seed that gets...

  • Executive Taking the Legislative

    The presidential election cycle is most curious. Huge amounts of attention, debates, time, advertising, scare-mongering, hope, promise of change, promise of harkening back to “the good ol’ days”, and such. Lots of people concentrate on a singular person to hope for their future. They place an enormous amount of trust in a singular position, a singular seat of power, a singular Authority. This is dangerous, and entirely not at all what the foundations of Democracy are built on. Democracy functions precisely because the three powers of government- that is, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial- are split between different,...

  • Confederate Battle Flag

    If the USA went to many of its battles in the Middle-East with a different flag, say a battle flag, would you say that flag doesn’t represent American interests, or isn’t representative of the country? I don’t think such an argument could be made to convince me entirely. I think every single country would assume that that battle flag is an American flag, as it is exclusively used by Americans. The fact that the battle flag is only used for military operations doesn’t mean its not American. But instead of a silly (and poor) analogy, lets look at the actual...

  • Real Issues Aren't Simple

    No issue worth talking about is simple. Why would it be? Our world isn’t simple. People have more than one trait, more than one “stereotype” that applies to them. So why should topics or events or issues be any different? Why does it seem that many want to turn to the first simple answer they hear? Why is it that simple steps, and simple rules, or simple “fixes” are so alluring? What about them makes people latch on to those analogies which just “fit so perfectly” and make so much sense? Because otherwise one would need to admit they don’t...

  • Caricature

    Beware the caricature unseen; for beneath the veneer of spotted truths, ignorance lurks.

  • Ludonarrative Dissonance

    Ludonarrative dissonance, a compounding of a video game’s story against what the player is actually doing, has some interesting facets that I think get ignored. This is primarily because a lot of focus is placed on whether the term means anything, whether it should even apply to video games, or whether it matters. So let’s explore the topic. The individual who coined this term, Clint Hocking, used it in reference to Bioshock, in which Hocking explains (I am simplifying to make the point more obvious to those who haven’t played before) that the player is told through the narrative that...

  • No Notoriety

    Nothing is added to the discussion by naming or showing the shooters in any of these mass shootings, or in killings whose sole purpose is to unleash violence on innocents (however many or few). Yes, their names are part of the public record and certainly their picture is somewhere on the Internet. But having the media, either mass media or local media, broadcast the murderer’s names for hours over days and weeks does not better inform you. However, the No Notoriety campaign doesn’t go far enough, in my not so humble opinion. Next time a shooting like this comes up,...

  • Existence

    Existence is a tautology. Ascribing more would belie the beauty of its simplicity.

  • History, and the News Media

    “History is the study and interpretation of the past”. This quote can be difficult to first grasp, in that it sounds odd that we would choose to “interpret” the past rather than understand it entirely. It isn’t as simple as not having enough information to build a complete set of facts that describe a time period. Even with Facebook and enormous digital archives of today, historians of the future will interpret today, by sifting through a subset of all the facts to build a snapshot of our time period. Its the opposite problem, which is having too much information and...

  • You Should Learn to Program

    Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic (the three Rs commonly cited), attempt to teach critical-thinking, critical analysis, critical self-review, and critical problem solving. What programming can add is using those four things to provide the basis for precise and accurate communication. Computers do exactly what you tell them to, which requires utilizing precise language. Research and writing assignments definitely touch on these skills (using accurate language to describe an idea). Mathematics brings in abstract ideas that require precise symbol manipulation to arrive at precise answers. And Reading allows one to analyze others intent, requiring accurate and precise understanding of the semantics used....

  • Sexuality and Gender

    There is a lot in these two topics alone, but there are several concrete and definite areas to focus on that are damaging to be left alone and empowering to both men and women to move forward into. A lot of this will be some basics of feminism along with some of the more recent progressions into that field. Nothing really new, but I would definitely like to give what I have taken away from it. Firstly, Emma Watson gave an excellent speech towards progressing feminism by trying to convince that feminism is more than just rights for women or...

  • New Technologies

    Star Trek actually touches on this concept regularly in many episodes, and is usually referred to as “The Prime Directive”. In short, The Federation will not interfere or simply give technology to pre-warp societies so as to not impose their vision of life and culture on others. Its portrayed as both noble and crippling to the crew of Enterprise, but generally each episode confirms that the Prime Directive is both necessary and good. But that is all fiction, so why does it relate to us? Because the technological differences between continents, countries, and even states is such that there are...

  • Bullying

    I just now realized that October is National End Bullying Month. Recently I have been trying to form my thoughts on the matter and it looks like I missed my chance to add to the discussion. I feel I have a lot to say on this, and I have for years. This post is really personal for me. Ending bullying in schools isn’t something that can be half-assed. One of the most life changing things that happened to me was moving from Alabama, where I was born, to Sandy Hook, Connecticut (and later Newtown) at the age of 9. The...

  • Content Moderation

    Content moderation on the Internet is an incredibly difficult challenge to solve. Despite the years of image recognition research done at universities and in corporations, a lot of that process is more accurately done by real people. Even software to determine if a piece of text is offensive, threatening, or soliciting services is very difficult to accurately determine. It really does require the full breadth of human experiences and knowledge just to make judgement calls like that. Even then, false-positives or negatives are still going to slip through. So when reading the article that I link to below, try to...

  • Education For The Self

    The world is incredibly complex, and requires an enormous amount of education, mathematics, science, philosophy, economics, logic, biology, and every other field of thought to truly appreciate just how much we don’t know. We don’t know what exact effects of any policy change will be, or climate change, or how to handle foreign policy, or the best security measure, or the fastest computer, the most effective form of government, the cure to cancer, quickest diet. But of all these things, I posit the most tragic is the dark field of learning. We don’t know how to engage people in wanting...

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