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September 27, 2016

Blast from the past... (2000)

"Just the image of Mega Man standing [...] there's a sadness to it. Even his sprite has a certain gravity and seriousness to it [...]. When I see a young child playing alone, in a park or in the middle of the street, playing by himself [...] there's something so sad about that sight, it can almost bring me to tears. And there's something similarly lonely about Mega Man [...]. In the backstory I wrote, Mega Man alone is equipped with the functionality to turn himself off. That very fact imbues him with a sadness. The other robot masters were made for some kind of specific job or work, so there's no need for them to have an "off switch" they can control. However, a robot helper like Mega Man can make his own judgments, and therefore can decide whether he's needed or not [...]. The sadness of being a robot is having this inorganic existence."
--Akira Kitamura, original creator of Mega Man, quoted in the most recent issue in "Boss Fight Books", "Mega Man 3" by Salvatore Pane

September 26, 2016

Thoughts about Romeo and Juliet. It's a *lot* more complex than "wait, just two kids whose dumb romance gets everyone killed".
"when you push a pull door and the person behind says 'you need to pull' aye cheers lad sure next plan was to start lifting from the bottom"
-- Why does everything sound better written in UK English?
Pretty darn fine rebuttal to "male privilege doesn't exist" misthink.

September 25, 2016

"Everyone spoke of an information overload, but what there was in fact was a non-information overload."
--Richard Saul Wurman

--W.J. Youden. Though I guess it's a shame it has been applied with too free a hand in stuff like "The Bell Curve"

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"

September 19, 2016

Thelonious Monk made a list for his fellow musicians 1. Monk’s Advice (1960)., transcribed by soprano sax player Steve Lacy in a spiral-bound notebook.
  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.
  • Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • All reet!
  • Always know
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.
  • What you don’t play can be more important than what you do
  • A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.
  • When you are swinging, swing some more!
  • (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
  • Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.

September 18, 2016

I started searching Google to diagnose upper back soreness I've had for a week now (below the left shoulder blade.) But, here is the number one image result for "trap muscles"

"When actors can't remember their lines, it's called 'going up,' or 'taking the elevator.'"
--Gene Wilder in "Kiss Me Like A Stranger". That's a really appropriate metaphor for what it feels like...
"I am not enlightened and apart from the occasional fantasy I have no goals to become enlightened because having a goal to become enlightened is like trying to lose weight by jumping up on a scale. You may be lighter for a brief second in the air but in the end you will hit much harder than if you simply stood still and did nothing."
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"My six year old once asked my two year old how much two plus two equals, to which he zenfully replied 'the water.'"
--Chris Niebauer, "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Rid yourself of ego in order to observe the secrets of the universe, but keep the ego in order to observe its manifestations."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"The ego has always been the verb that desperately wanted to be an eternal noun."
--Chris Niebauer paraphrasing the "Tao Te Ching" in "The Neurotic's Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment"
"Consciousness is more like dancing than it is like digestion."
--Alva Noë
"It was-- fun. ...Oh my"
--Captain Kirk's final words

September 17, 2016

Lately I've been thinking about forms of empathy in everyday life, of whether an assumption of competition vs cooperation is good for us: pragmatically, but especially emotionally.

The examples that come most easily to mind are traffic-related. You're stuck behind some left-turner, look for your chance to scoot around to the right lane so that you can go straight, and some putz from behind you zips on up and takes your chance. It's easy to feel frustrated and annoyed by that, and to feel that you've somehow "lost" to that person. But what if you were able to view it as a little victory, either for them, or for local car-driving humanity in general?

Stupid? Naive? Maybe. I mean, from an evolutionary standpoint, we have a lot of cooperation in our history, but also a mandate to be on watch against cheaters, people who will take advantage of us, people who carry and struggle for their own agendas that we may actively disagree with, maybe even people with enough awareness of our own Kumbaya that they can leverage it for their own purposes with a blatant disregard for reciprocity. And few of us want to feel like that kind of fool.

Still, I think it might be a useful attitude to carry. I've been finding ways to douse "road rage" with thoughts like "Waiting Is" (time stuck waiting is still time, it's not some untime that is inherently valueless, even if we are impatient to get to somewhere else, eager for some event to occur) and adding in a dose of perspective - i.e. keeping in mind Homer Simpson's reaction to a traffic jam, the utterly furious "Lousy minor setback! This world sucks!", and how that's a kind of natural but short sighted way to be... and being aware how my brain is SO damn good at coming up with "alternate realities" that remove those little inconveniences. All that helps, but that feeling of "losing" to the other driver still stings. If I can share in their victory, or see it as a general positive for driver-kind, I'll be a happier and more generous person.

I'm not there yet, but hippy and Eastern ideas like "we are all one" make more sense to me, even if I have to wade hipdeep through my flavor of Western Rationalism to get there.

September 16, 2016

Oh Shazam, you too?

Next Draft, (which along with Quora act as the only semi-daily newslettery things I get) had this to say about watching shows together:
"New research from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland has found that watching TV series, and consuming other media like films and books with one's partner, can help to achieve the same kind of closeness as having a mutual group of friends. In relationships without many shared friends, the characters actually take on a similar role, providing a shared social world which, the researchers say, helps two individuals feel close and connected." Yes, watching Game of Thrones with your spouse is good for your marriage (other than that time when Daenerys Targaryen got all her clothes burned off and you started giggling uncontrollably).

September 15, 2016

"Forever will not be solved with algebra but with geometry, not with ideas but with things. Even an infinity symbol can be traversed by a single line drawn right. Even the scratchiest record can't skip forever, even the moldiest peach can only decay for so long. Eventually, there is an end to discord, a return to either harmony or silence. After the end credits, there is still the clatter of film against reel, of a machine waiting to be turned off. There is still the need for agency, for someone to help bring everything to a satisfying finale before the lights can come back on."
--Matt Bell, from "Ten Scenes from a Movie Called Mercy". I worry this passage is more evocative than sensible, or internally consistent, but I kind of love it.
Cross-cultural studies of parenting along with the promise, or threat, that in kids come across fine with a bunch of different styles applied, there's no one right way to do it.

September 14, 2016

On an impulse I bought this small but dope Magnavox old-school TV with completely transparent sides...

Cool seeing Loaded4Bear on real hardware, top to bottom.
Followup: a fellow old video game nerd points out that this tv, with its cool transparent case, was probably designed for use in prisons, where it can't easily hide contraband material, rather than being a hip iMac-influenced design.
Best new iOS 10 feature: the new set of keyboard sounds. Rather than having the same click for every key, normal keys, white space/shift, and delete all have different sound effects. The result is a delightful little blurble that gives subconscious feedback about what keys you're hitting, very pleasing in an ASMR kind of way.