September 24, 2016


Over the years as I make various improvements in my out look, philosophical and existential ways of trying to be a better and more aware person on a number of fronts, I try to think if I'm doing a lot better than my past self, or if I'm just forgetful of what that past self was up to at the time.

September 23, 2016

"Get it right or let it alone.
The conclusion you jump to may be your own. "
--James Thurber, "Further Fables for Our Time"
"When I play a game, I know if I have a few hours I will be rewarded. With a job, it's always been up in the air with the amount of work I put in and the reward."
--Danny Izquierdo, in a WaPo piece on Why amazing video games could be causing a big problem for America:
Most of the blame for the struggle of male, less-educated workers has been attributed to lingering weakness in the economy, particularly in male-dominated industries such as manufacturing. Yet in the new research, economists from Princeton, the University of Rochester and the University of Chicago say that an additional reason many of these young men - who don't have college degrees -- are rejecting work is that they have a better alternative: living at home and enjoying video games. The decision may not even be completely conscious, but surveys suggest that young men are happier for it.
Wow, what a thought. I certainly understand that feeling of liking guaranteed effort to reward links; while my approval/attention seeking nature brings me to activities more likely to be publicly laudable, I've never been a challenge for challenge's sake, or "it's the journey" kind of guy.

(Though come to think of it, salaried jobs tend to have a bit of disconnect between effort put in on a day by day basis and reward, at least in the financial sense.)

But it feels like videogames are getting to the form of a rather concentrated drug! It's odd to be me because I'm still nostalgic for them and like them from time to time but have grown out of playing them regularly - just don't have/make the time for 'em, and many of the popular genres don't seem appealing. (The exception for me being goofy "wide open sandbox" games, ala GTA and Saints Row) In some way video games are a segment of my identity, but I'm pretty much limited to binge play of a new entry in a series once or twice a year. I still like the idea of people MAKING their own games, and I do a bit of that, but compared to these super-powered AAA titles, they're more like fun digital toys.

And man, video games are an astounding technology these days - sure, other technologies have made amazing strides - a communicator / camera / reference to giant chunks of the world's knowledge at any moment / digital map / huge music library in the palm of my hand is astounding - but if you look at the early square, colorful blobs when video games first went mainstream in the late-70s early-80s to a AAA title today; it's astounding. Too often the interaction is limited, but the look and feel and sound of these 3D worlds is nothing short of Holodeckian.

Besides the empowerment-fantasy realism, games have gotten so much smarter about online playing. My idea of multiplayer is still 3 or 4 people sitting on the same couch with a splitscreen, but between the rewarding character build grind of a World of Warcraft (or whatever MMORPG the kids are playing today) or the very smart match making of a shoot 'em up (or the physicsy fun of "Rocket League" (car soccer)) -- I would imagine finding your place in these online legions can be very appealing. (Though maybe that sense of competition goes against the grain of "guaranteed reward" of the leading quote?

September 22, 2016

"Sunspots were examined in detail by telescope in the early 1600s, after some 200 years of repeated viewing by unaided eyes in Athens, China, Japan, and Russia. It was difficult for Europeans to see sunspots at all because Aristotle had said that celestial bodies were perfect and without blemish, a fancy which became official church doctrine in the middle ages."
--Edward Tufte, from "Envisioning Information". Luckily then came Galileo. This is why doctrine is kind of terrible. Any source of information and guidance needs to have a corrective mechanism.

September 21, 2016

"Your name is Kirk? You are a healthy fellow?"
--My Immunizations Doc Monday. Seems either charming down to earth or asking a weird coded question, or both

September 20, 2016

Dead Man Talking: A Dialog with Tom Parmenter. In 2013, Tom Parmenter died. But, he got better. He lived - and is still living - a rich life, with journalism and music and his lovely wife Ann. In 2016 we met over dinner and had lovely conversation. I recorded it and had it transcribed.

Two excerpts, for flavor...

On "Do you keep any kind of bucket list?"

I'm alive, I've been alive a long time. I've done a lot of things. I'm still alive, I'll still do some more but do I really need to go to New York? A bucket list ... The universe in a grain of sand has always been my motto and there's as much interesting going on between your toes - particularly if there's sand there - as anywhere else
On working on the Chicago afternoon papers:
That was the deal, you'd get street sales. It's definitely a more sensational journalistic environment. I worked there and a lot of these guys were legendary journalists. Harry Romanoff, a city editor he had been the night city editor since the 20's or something. A long time. He could talk a tan off a bathing beauty.. just so... You really had to sort of be corrupt to be employed, because poking into people's private business and so forth. I remember one night I was talking to someone who's husband had died and said something about "I'm sorry to disturb you at a time like this" and she said "I wasn't sleeping anyway..."

Andrew Sullivan on How his need to connect to the infosphere almost killed him. I don't have it nearly as bad as this guy, and I feel that the simple pleasures of this world (reading a book, taking in the moment) are still readily accessible to me. Still, I know I turn to this kind of distraction too often as stress relief when a task seems even slightly daunting or less than worthwhile.
"Death would be much more terrifying if it was actually possible to live forever"
--TimeForPoolParty