Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pondering the Meaning of the 'Blog, 2014

There has been something of a change of tone and content around these parts over the last couple of years. As with all such things, it relates to where things are going in my life right now. In the wake of a couple years of commuting, a subsequent move, and the associated job changes, it seems my priorities have shifted. I'm still reading the news, but I seem to be finding less and less of it interesting. Over the years, it has been link gathering that has driven posts more often than not. But these days, I'm finding much more pleasure in the frivolities of good books, TV, and games, no doubt because I am busier at work doing more difficult things than I have ever been before. That has been reflected in the posts here. I suspect that trend will continue.

In asking myself what direction I want these writings to go, I have had various answers over the years. Rarely did those answers actually come to fruition. (Frankly, bookworming may be the only one that actually took.) I have told myself that I should write about programming more, or that I should write about it less (is it actually possible for me to write about it less?). I have said the same thing to myself about personal content and link-posts and pretty much everything else I have ever played with in this space. I have wondered if I shouldn't just close it all down in favor of an offline journal.

That isn't going to happen, at least not yet. And as this blog heads toward it's tenth anniversary, and I approach my fortieth, I find that no matter how I have tried to direct things here, I always end up where I started nine years ago. The more things change, as they say, the more they stay the same. And thus it appears this space will continue to be my digital stream of consciousness.

Evidential Futility

There are certain debates which can never be won. The sides are entrenched, the topics too complicated or personal, there is not really a right answer. Pro-choice vs. pro-life, Israel vs. Palestine, vi vs. emacs. But there are also some arguments that should be rationally resolved, such as creationism vs. evolution, climate change, and green energy. And yet, the debates rage on. Politics goes the same way. All the actors do the same things over and over again, and both sides perpetually claim their ideology is right and the other will destroy America while both fail at their lofty goals. What is going on there?

Funny story... It turns out, and this is completely logical if you consider it, it turns out that the people most informed and capable of looking at evidence are also the people best equipped to rationalize their own views on a subject, and that cultural identity drives public opinion more than evidence. Thus people who identify with/as Democrats/Republicans/Bible literalists/Pastafarians/insert-ideology-you-disagree-with-here are not going to be persuaded by your evidence. Ever. Sure, there may be an exception here or there, but that's just statistics for you. In general people are going to believe what the group they identify with believes. Now what the heck do I do with that knowledge?

If I'm perfectly honest, it felt a bit revelatory when I read about the studies. In the sense that it confirmed something I had long been trying to resolve (thus making me more likely to give the story credence). I have long believed that certain debates that rage in our society are literal wastes of time. And now I have evidence (Evidence!) to back up my rationalized claim. I also have a great excuse not to engage in such debates anymore. Y'all believe what y'all are going to believe in any case, and I will do the same.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Assigning Copyright for Selfie on a Stolen Phone

Just a little conundrum from the land of copyright for you today. Once upon a time, a monkey stole a nature photographer's camera and took a bunch of pictures of himself. Today, said photographer believes that the copyright for the picture should be his. Wikipedia disagrees believing the photograph was taken by the monkey and is therefore public domain (on the grounds that the monkey can't claim copyright).


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back in my Day...

Five Swords, Attribution below.

One can not run across this much awesome and not post it.
[Five Swordsmen of the Kickass coloring by John-Paul Bove of Five Swords by Jake]

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bookworming: The Te of Piglet

The Te of Piglet, Benjamin Hoff, **
Hard to read for all the wrong reasons, The Te of Piglet is a smattering of Taoist philosophy interspersed with the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Unfortunately, the two do not mix properly, the interjections often behave not as transitions but as non-sequitur. I made it through the book because the philosophy is quite interesting, but I suspect there are some better, clearer books on the subject to be found elsewhere.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Brief Comment on Dungeons & Dragons 5

I currently do not have any plans to pick up the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons that is being released starting next month. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I am not currently a part of a regular gaming group.
  2. Core set of books cost $150.
I did look over the preview Wizards of the Coast put out, and it looks to have serious potential. Hard to really judge without a monster stat block or three, but it appears to have dispensed with some of the complexity and scaling issues that plagued the recent versions. If either of those two conditions were not the case, I might be interested to see if the set would be worthy of succeeding my old D&D Rules Cyclopedia (available again in PDF) as my  preferred edition of D&D.

Over the past decade or so, the internet has supported a great deal of competition with versions of games reformulating the older, simpler versions of D&D itself as well as Pathfinder taking over the popular v3 D&D niche on the high end. Not to mention Savage Worlds, a very low cost of entry generic system,  or Fate and Apocalypse World type games with their more storytelling style. All of these are available in PDF for very low costs, and even if you prefer the real books, there is a great deal of play to be had for far less than $150. I suspect I am not alone, and Wizards is taking a pretty big risk re-launching their flagship at such a premium price.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bookworming: Red Storm Rising

Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy, ***
Back in the late 80s when this book came out, it was deemed a chillingly plausible scenario of how World War III might play out with the conventional weaponry of the era. Times have changed, I have grown up (a little), and now it's easy to see the Cold War bigotry, the fetishization of technology, and, as one might expect of military fiction of that day, its complete failure of the Bechdel test. Co-author Larry Bond, uncredited on the jacket, was best known at the time for his Harpoon naval warfare game. As such, the action is largely in the air and at sea. It is often called a techno-thriller for a reason: this is not a novel about people, it's a narrative look at the tools of war and the strategies used to employ them. The characters are mere names who's personal stories go from non-existent to wholly subservient to the grand sweep of the war, and pretty much nowhere else. Know what you are getting into with this book: it's military strategy fiction, all the way down.

With all that said... I love it. For better than 25 years it has remained one of my favorite "beach book" reads. It's a summer blockbuster of a novel, shot throughout with tension punctuated with action scenes. I am giving it three stars here because it will absolutely not be for everyone. For fans of speculative military fiction or grand strategy however, it's an easy one to recommend.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Quote of the Moment

"If I were to give up Sarcasm, that would leave interpretive dance as my only means of communication."
—Bill Murry via Twitter