Monday, August 26, 2013

You can't buy this party boat for money

So now I have something more like six euros left. That's 6, for those of you that are bots and can't read numbers as letters. Or letters as numbers, as the case might be.

This poorness leads me to ask certain questions. One of them being: what would I do should I suddenly have boatloads of money?

After thinking about it, I've realized that the answer is not to buy a party boat, get high on vast amount of drugs, and do the vast amounts of debauchery that money seems to bring with it. Not that party boats, drugs and debauchery ain't fun, but - what's the point?

There's things to do, right? Important things to take care of, a world to save and so on. Right?


The thing about being poor is that things are unselected  for money reasons. Things that ought to be done aren't, things that should be done are postponed indefinitely, and things that want to be done are shoved aside by those things that can be done with the means at hand. Corners are cut, shoes that are not entirely whole are lived with, and those things that would be considered broken are continually used because the only other alternative is to not use them.

This makes it a natural thing to uncut these corners. Do those things that ought to be done, should be done and want to be done.

Having shoes that won't get my feet wet. Yeah. I can go with that. And eating something that is not cooked on the principle of getting a lot of food for no money. And all those other small things that never see the light of day, by virtue of being the expensive things that can't be afforded this month either.

The party boat will have to wait.

But after that, you ask?


Would it be utopian to think that I could transpose my cheap living way into the future, enjoying the (comparatively) good life I'm living now, only without the constant worries about money?

What would you do if you suddenly had boatloads of money?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I caused the economic crisis

I have a total of twelve euros to my name.

That's twelve. As in 12.

That's more awesome than it sounds.

Somehow, by not spending these twelve euros, I've managed to wreak severe economic havoc across a wide spectrum of economic sectors. Developers, distributors, studios, associations, - the whole gamut of copyright industries and related businesses. They have all been wrought upon, and the havoc has been severe.

That's quite the bang for the bucks. All twelve of them.

The logic I'm applying here is the old doctrine that one illegal download is one lost sale. And that my criminal self has inflicted great damage upon a great many commercial actors by not spending my money on those things so downloaded.

All twelve of them.

One might object that twelve euros is not much, and that spending it on anything at all in the first world wouldn't change anything in the grander scheme of things. That it is impossible to lose a sale to someone who never could afford it in the first place. That poor people make poor consumers. That it might be proper to rethink the old doctrine.

One might.

But I quite like the thought of causing great imaginary economic havoc with my imaginary money. It is, after all, the most bang I'll ever get for my bucks. The highest return on investment I'll ever see. In any category.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

I was Bradley Manning

Let's start off at the obvious point: Bradley Manning was a hero. Chelsea Manning is a hero. Let there be no doubt about this, either in a grammatical or any other sense.

Was, is. Powerful words.

This tense grammar seems to be causing all kinds of confusion all around the world right now. On the one hand, those who most avidly supported Bradley have no real reason not to support Chelsea. It's the same person, the same act of heroism and the same overly harsh sentence for the crime of telling the truth. Nothing has changed, and she is as worthy of our continual support as she ever was.

On the other hand, some people are equipped with brains that automagically shuts down at the very mention of gender. These people are, at this very moment, very confused as to what to think. The hero, the gender, the mental breakdown -

Poor fellows.

Let there be no doubt about the hero status of Chelsea Manning. In any sense. Not even the grammatical one.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

There is no such thing as too fast, too efficient or too lean

The concept of a speed run is both simple and complex at the same time. It's easy to grasp what it is, yet defining it makes for a challenge.

The essence of a speed run is this: getting from the start to the end of a computer game as fast as humanly possible. As in, as fast as possible, without any avoidable delay. Such as, say, story, taking in the scenes, enjoying the side quests or anything that isn't getting from start to finish. The faster, the better.

Separating the words "speed" and "run" makes it a tad bit easier to define this phenomena.

"Speed" means just that. Speed, velocity, motion, getting forward. Any moment wasted is a moment wasted, and if there is any way to unwaste a moment, that is the correct way.

"Run" is trickier. A run is everything that happens between when you press "new game" to when you either reach the end or give up. One might make the argument that there has to be some sort of intentionality to it for it to be a run proper, and that playing in general doesn't constitute a run per se. I'd argue that every playthrough is a run of one flavor or another, and that the only thing that differs is the skill with which it is executed.

Let's illustrate this with the most frequently used example of this blog: Deus Ex: Human Revolution. There are many possible runs to go for, with varying levels of difficulty. The easiest is the "I'm gonna beat this game" run, where the object is to beat the game, without any particular preferences. Then there are runs with various restrictions, such as not killing anyone, never being seen by anyone, not setting off any alarms etc. Or, hardest of all, all of the above. Any given set of restrictions is a "run".

(I'm not gonna lie to you. I've done that. All of it. It's a source of nerd pride. Respect my authoritah.)

Like genre participation, one does not need to know the genre to participate, only act in accordance. I.e. you're doing a particular run if you're playing in a particular way. It doesn't have to be formalized or given a name, but a run it is nevertheless.

A speed run is a very specific kind of run.

What makes these runs special is the laser like focus they have on minimizing the actual game time. Everything is repurposed in terms of seconds and minutes: how many minutes can you shave off by doing x or avoiding y? is it worth it to spend a couple of precious minutes early in the game in order to save time later on? what glitches, bugs and unintended features can be systematically exploited in order to become faster? what works?

The first things to go is story and morality, where applicable. If there's an option to do a good thing, and that option takes more time than the option to not do it, then that option is off the table. Except if you later on get a reward that speeds things up in some other, timely beneficial way. There's no right and wrong - there is only speed.

Then, everything else goes. Everything except outright cheating

It is interesting to see how something familiar be translated into a very unfamiliar context. There's absolutely no understanding for taking things slow and smelling the roses, and no sentimentality about anything. It's all rational, goal-oriented minmaxing, down to the last saved second - brutal instrumentality all the way.

The most interesting aspect of this is that this isn't limited to computer games. This is how instrumental rationality works overall, in all cases where efficiency is called for: in factories, in engineering, in middle management, in public policy review. Something that is a composite whole is reduced to one single measurable statistic, and then all efforts are put into optimizing for that one measured number. With a laser-like focus and brutal unsentimentality of those aspects of the whole that is not deemed important.

The question to ponder is: what constitutes a "run" in those cases that are not runtime computer games?

A possible response to an implied interlocutor

Dear sir, the biggest flaw in your argument is that it is based on the premise that you are a moron. I cannot in good conscience accept this premise, not even for the sake of argument, and I am in all honesty shocked that you choose to debase yourself this way. It is very much beneath you to behave this way, and it pains me to say that there are very few possible discourses wherein what you say does not assume that the sayer is not right in the head. That you would willingly perform such a speech act flabbergasts me, and therefore I shall give you this additional chance to restate your case in a way that is less embarrassing to the both of us.

Should you find this response offensive, then please refrain from voicing this. Some things are after all better left unsaid.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

We are no strangers

One of the stranger results of Snowden's reveal about the NSA - results of which there are many - has to do with nationalism. Specifically, European nationalism. Even more specifically, European nationalism visavi the the European Union.

Now, as you might imagine, the revelation that the NSA spies on just about anything worth and/or possible to spy on has sparked quite an uproar just about everywhere. The obvious result is of course that people are very much less supportive of American pre-emptive security measures in general - being the pre-empted terrorists and all. The less obvious result is that there's a sudden surge in pro-EU sentiments in certain circles. Nationalist circles.

Especially in the smaller countries.

Being a nationalist of a small country is a strange thing. On the one hand, it means that you are part of a very exclusive group of people, and that you can turn this very smallness into a source of pride. On the other hand, it also means that you really can't count on the support of a huge military machine in your nationalist endeavor - that goes with the whole smallness thing.

Another thing that goes with the nationalist package is a hefty dose of skepticism about the whole EU project. The "we are the best" mentality only includes so many people, after all, and the prospect of gradually becoming one with the rest of Europe is a bit too inclusive. Smallness and exclusivity, you know.

So. The Snowden reveal kicks into effect, and the US suddenly looms that much larger in the overall threat assessment of the present. What happens should they look hither and decide that we are the threat? We and what army are gonna stop them if they get any ideas?

Suddenly, the EU seems like that much more of a good idea.

We are living in strange times, and strange things are afoot. In the strangest of ways.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Atheists don't like people talking about atheists

Hardcore atheists are fun. Especially those who denounce any, all and every thing that exhibits any trace of religion. Whatever it happens to be.

Especially those who do it on the grounds that it is nothing but fiction. That it's just a bunch of stories that someone made up and wrote down ages ago, and that any reasonable approach to it would dismiss them as the useless piece of discursive junk that it is. The less said about it, the better!

The funniest thing about it is that it is several things at once. Unreasonable, unscientific and untenable are three of them.

It is unreasonable on the grounds that just about everything boils down to stories that some dude wrote down ages ago. Nationalism, capitalism, pokemon - any major world changing stream of thought you can think of started out as someone sitting down to write a story about how neat it would be if [enter any if here]. It then grew out from that, one someone at a time.

Fan fiction is awesome that way.

It is unscientific, on the grounds that just about any major historical trend you could care to shake a stick at was based on, influenced by and justified with a religious foundation. This goes for any and every thing - architecture, music, politics, wars, economic expansions, and so on and so forth.

Dismissing religion out of hand makes history nigh impossible to understand. Not to mention the present, which is still based on history.

It is untenable, on the ground that if you insist on inhabiting this view for any length of time, you're going to find yourself alienated from just about anyone worth not being alienated from. Not just from religious people (although they are not amused), but also from people who generally just want to get along. Who want to explore ideas, what ifs and general ruminations with others. Not in order to get at any divine (or secular) truth, but to have a good time with those who happen to be there right there and then.

Life tip: barging in and roaring "IT'S ALL BULLSHIT" is not the suavest of moves. Anywhere.

Is there any way we could tell this to the most hard, most core and most atheist of the hardcore atheists? Or do we have to conclude that they have, indeed, withdrawn into their newfound atheist religions, and must be treated with the same kind of ecological respect that all devout communities need in order to not turn zealot? -