dorchadas: (Default)
I saw an article that Whole Foods is planning to lower prices starting Monday when the Amazon deal goes through. That's good for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I, since we're the perfect demographic for the deal--a well-off, urban couple who shop primarily at Whole Foods and have an Amazon Prime account. They specifically mention slashed prices on salmon, and that's money that goes right back into our budget because every morning I have rice, miso soup, pickles, and salmon for breakfast.

We don't have any brand loyalty, though. We shop at Whole Foods because it's within walking distance and it replaced the Dominick's that used to be there. A few years ago, we did most of our shopping at True Nature, an independently-run organic food co-op, but when Whole Foods opened they packed up and moved a mile and a half north, too far away to make regular grocery runs to on foot. We did our meat shopping at the local butcher, Holtzkopf's, and just this week I learned that they were closing for business and not relocating. And the Asian grocery store a few blocks south that we used to get our rice and miso from went to weekends-only, and I think has since closed for good, forcing us to go down to walk about twice as far south down to Little Saigon to get them.

We're lucky that we still can shop within walking distance, but nearly everything around that originally led us to pick where we moved to has since closed. Emoji Cute shrug

[personal profile] schoolpsychnerd got a new crockpot for her birthday last month, replacing the old one that we got as a wedding gift ten years ago. The new one is easier to clean, less bulky, black (hey, #aesthetic), and makes wonderful food like this:

2017-08-24 Chicken curry crockpot
Curry chicken in coconut milk broth.

When I came home, it had been cooking for twelve hours. It was sublime. I could eat curry every meal for the rest of my life and I would die a happy man.

Tonight I get even more delicious food, since it's [ profile] xoDrVenture's birthday and she elected to have her party at Fogo de Chão. I've never been, though I've heard stories of the delicious piles of meat and the servers coming around and loading one's plate to bursting, and I'm looking forward to a meal fit for Sovngarde. Giant mountains of meat with vegetables on the side would be my second-most-desired every meal right after curry.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
This is about the Nazi rally yesterday.

Not about how the President of the United States of America is a Nazi, sympathizer, though he clearly is. Trump is perfectly capable of making strong, unambiguous statements when he has something he's actually interested in condemning. Saying "hatred, bigotry and violence on many side" is implicitly blaming those targeted by the Nazis as much as the Nazis. Trump cannot condemn racism and white supremacy because Trump is a racist and a white supremacist.

This isn't about the idiotic free speech arguments claiming that Nazis arguing that [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I should die are equivalent to us saying that perhaps we should not. It's the worst kind of Is-Ought fallacy, arguing that because that's currently the way that the First Amendment is interpreted that makes it somehow the best possible interpretation. They may say that this sort of free speech makes America great, but what I hear is, "We will only come to your defense when it's already too late."

Well, it's about those inasmuch as I've mentioned them. Emoji Cute shrug

No, it's about the claims that this "isn't America" that I've seen from politicians. In response to those, I submit this article. Madison Square Garden, 1939. Twenty thousand people showed up to cheer Hitler and complain about Roosevelt's "Jew Deal." And before that, when the Nazis were laying out the Nuremberg Laws, the meetings they held on the topic repeatedly returned to American legal segregation as an inspiration. The Nazis were, of course, perfectly capable of coming up with these laws on their own, but the fact that they looked to America is a lesson that many of us need to remember.

This is America. Most of the problems we still have can be directly traced back to slavery and the legacy of racism it left. The lack of socialized health care (partially scuttled by southern politicians' fear of integrated hospitals), the police state, Republican voter suppression efforts, a lack of a robust welfare state...

The hatred is coming from inside the house.
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
It's probably not a good idea for me to read climate news right before bed.

I've since read some cogent critiques of the piece, pointing out its Eurocentrism and factual errors like the invocation of medieval stasis in the idea that for thousands of years, people would live mostly the same as their parents and grandparents did. This was the popular conception even at the time--see all those medieval paintings with Jesus and the disciples dressed like someone from medieval France--but it was never actually true. There were a lot of changes over that time, just none as visible from the modern age as the industrial or green revolutions.

There was also a good point about the wisdom of "The situation is bad and requires immediate action" vs. "Your descendants will ritually curse your names in the ruins of their ancestors' cities." The first is true, the second might be true, but encourages paralysis. If civilization is doomed, why bother trying to save it? Live in luxury now while it's still possible. Eat, drink, and be merry, etc. I'm definitely inclined more towards inevitable doom, but more in ScreamingInternally.jpg model than the conspicuous consumption model.

I could have written this last night around 1 a.m., but fortunately I've developed better bedtime discipline as I've gotten older and I just stayed in bed and kept trying to sleep.

I'm slowly making progress on re-linking all the photo embeds to their new hosting. I've done Darker than Black, all my video game reviews, and my Japan, Chicago, Translation, Warcraft, and Travel tags. Now I'm working on Fifty Weeks, Fifty Curries and then I'll get to the RPGs tag and that'll probably be the vast majority of everything necessary. I'll catch the last few photos when I find them.

Tonight is the next session of Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom after a month hiatus due to conflicting schedules. We left off right before the protagonists and their hired mercenaries entered a cave system in pursuit of a group of necromancers. They've spent half-a-dozen sessions tracking down the source of the walking dead plague and following them to this cave system, and now the climactic battle happens against at least three necromancers and whatever else is down there. They're mostly uninjured but fatigued, having force-marched through the day to arrive before sundown, and while they have mounts the mercenaries were on foot. Who will win? This or that by brokenboulevard
dorchadas: (Warcraft Won't Stop Searching)
Listening to the latest episode of Vidjagame Apocalypse yesterday and they had a brief section about Night in the Woods, the adventure game about snake person angst, and included a cover of one of the songs from the protagonist's band:

I played it for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and gave a summary of the premise as I knew it, since I knew she'd understand. She's from Paducah, and as a child she had the goal to just get out in the way that I think a lot of kids from rural areas do. I'm from the Chicago suburbs, so it never affected me the same way, but I know people who lived in those dying towns before they moved away. The factories have closed, the malls are ghost towns, and people work retail because that's all that's available and mark off the days on the calendar. I mentioned that the protagonist and her friends hang out at the hardware store for lack of anywhere else to go, and [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd nodded sagely.

I'm leaning towards buying the game based on how much I liked that song, honestly.

Farmer's Market Dinner )

For class, we were supposed to discuss an article but Aya-sensei forgot to email me, so we just chatted for an hour (and I did okay! Weeee smiling happy face). We're doing the article next week, though--an essay by Hirano Keiichirō entitled 無常ということ (mujou to iu koto, "On impermanence"), about the changes Kyōto has undergone, efforts against that, and what the "real Kyōto" is anyway.

One part stood out to me:
Which I would translate as
Much like humans die, buildings will crumble. Much like people change, the scenery will ceaselessly change. Surely to console that desperate existential dread, is that not why we must build temples and shrines in such huge numbers as eternal sacred spaces?
At what point does preservation become killing something and preserving it in amber? At what point does change destroy that which came before and make something completely new? I'm sure the people in the dying rural towns, both here and in Japan, would prefer there had been a bit less change, even if younger people are moving to those towns sometimes.

I haven't finished the essay, so I can't answer those questions. Question block
dorchadas: (Nyarlathotep)
So the American government decided to send a carrier group to the Korean peninsula as a show of force against Korean nuclear ambitions, which prompted the representatives of the Eternal Lich President to issue its own response.

And then an hour ago, I saw that [ profile] nhk_kokusai had tweeted this out:

Here's my translation:
Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga [Yoshihide] highlighted that, in relation to President Trump's deployment of the military toward North Korea and refusal to lift sanctions, while America and South Korea maintain their cooperation, [Japan] must be prepared in case an evacuation of Japanese citizens living on the Korean Peninsula becomes necessary.
So, they're at least admitting the possibility of another war. Remember when people assumed that our Dear Leader would be an isolationist who wouldn't go around starting wars, unlike that hawk Clinton? Those takes, as they say, did not age well.

At least Twitter will keep us entertained in the 20 minutes after the missiles launch.
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
This post is partially inspired by the eternal complaining about "censorship" and localization, and partially by this article about Vagrant Story's localization.

One of my favorite games of all time is Chrono Trigger, and my favorite part of Chrono Trigger is the Kingdom of Zeal, where dreams come true. It's the lynchpin of the game, the only part that isn't inspired by a historical era, and the most overtly fantastical. The Enlightened live on a floating continent above the clouds and away from the ice age below, using their magic to create a post-scarcity society and leaving their Earthbound cousins without magic to fend for themselves on the ground. With the goal of surpassing even those limits and ensuring the eternal glory of the Kingdom of Zeal, they build a great machine.

In Japanese, this is just the 魔神器 (majinki, "Demonic vessel"), which is awful. For one, it gives the game away immediately and lets the player know that the Kingdom of Zeal is corrupted. For another, it's silly. No one thinks that they're evil, and the people in Zeal who mention the majinki talk about it as a means to attain greater power for helping Zeal, but with a name like that, how believable is that? Why would anyone name the machine designed to power their society the "demonic vessel"?

It's possible to read it slightly differently, as 魔・神器 instead of 魔神・器, but that just means "evil sacred treasure," which isn't any better.

In English, the majinki was localized as the "Mammon Machine," which is a fantastic name. It's alliterative and slightly ominous, but doesn't immediately make you wonder why all these people are okay with a demonic vessel powering their society. The people in Kajar and Enhasa spend their time in magical research or idle dreaming in their utopia, fed by cornucopia machines and with magic to do all the work, and talk offhandedly about how the Mammon Machine will make their kingdom even greater, and it sounds a bit strange. And then you get to the Zeal Palace, and this music starts playing, and you know something is very wrong with the Kingdom of Zeal.

Schala Mammon Machine

Of course, the name "Mammon" already gives it away, but subtly. Mammon, the pursuit of wealth which is the root of all evil. The people of Zeal already had a utopia, where no one needed to work and everyone could spend their days in the manner of their choosing. It was a bit like Omelas, it's true. There's a quote about how the Queen conscripted a bunch of Earthbound to work on the Ocean Palace, though the man phrases it in an obvious euphemism for slavery:
"The Earthbound Ones are being allowed to work on the construction of the Palace. So they do have a purpose after all."
But it's not directly build on the suffering of others, just on social exclusion, which is at least marginally better than active oppression. The Kingdom of Zeal had everything they could want, but in their pride and greed they wanted more. So pushed on by their Queen, they reached out to the power slumbering beneath the ocean, and they built a machine to tap into that power to push them beyond their already lofty place. And because of it, they lost everything.

Magus post-Zeal

Much more evocative than the "demonic vessel." A localization isn't a literally translation, and it shouldn't be, because sometimes it adds something that the original was missing.
dorchadas: (Chiyoda)
Last week I saw an article about snake people moving to dying Japanese mountain towns. It seems a bit overstated--I mean, how many rural mountain towns can sustain an economy on brewpubs, artist communes, or drone testing--but I love the idea, especially in spring or fall, when the sakura or the momiji are in bloom and I really miss Japan.

I'd never consider moving to rural America if I can help it, and reading this made me think about the difference. Some of it is political, but I think a lot of it has to do with distance. Even in Chiyoda, we weren't that far from anything. It was a forty-five minute bus ride on the highway into Hiroshima City, but the important thing is that there was a bus and it came three times an hour. If we had lived in Miyoshi, we could have taken the train. There were towns further in the mountains that were more isolated like Takamiya or Geihoku, but even then it wouldn't have taken that long to get into the city. And crucially, the only thing we'd need a car for is driving to the train or bus station. There are very few places, if any, where that's true in America.

I never thought I was a country kid until I moved to Japan. Like most 80s suburbanites, I assumed that there was nothing to do and "out there"--i.e., anywhere more populated than where I lived--was where it's at. That's part of why I decided to go to university in the city, an experience which proved that I really did prefer urban areas. But those three years in Chiyoda were wonderful and there isn't a week that goes by that I don't want to move back. If there was some way to do so and still keep my job, and for [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd to not have to change her line of work entirely, I'd advocate for it in a heartbeat. But for some reason, the AMA considers working from home a perk of management-level employees rather than assigning it based on job duties, so even though everything I do is web-based now and could theoretically be done from anywhere, I still have to head down into the office every day. We'll see if that changes with the new database (more on that in a post next week, probably!), but I doubt it.

It wouldn't let me move back to Chiyoda, though. Probably nothing ever will.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Yesterday I saw an article on Twitter about how video games are better than real life, and it got me thinking.

I'm lucky enough now to have a job with reasonable pay and excellent benefits, but something I'm always conscious of is that my job exists as a stop-gap. I do data quality curation, so my day is checking the results of machine algorithms and dealing with what they can't handle--since we get millions of records a month, there's no way they could all be checked by hand and no need to do it when well over 99% of the work can be automated. But automation keeps getting better, and that means the space for what I do now is continually shrinking. Eventually, it'll be gone. Not this year, probably not in the next five years, but almost certainly before I retire.

(Incidentally, this is one reason why I save so much of our income. I'm trying to get ahead of the curve while I can )

And then I think about the last year we were in Japan, after Suzugamine cancelled its contract with Lang due to a shrinking student body (shrinking so much that it later merged with another school and changed its name), when I was out of work. [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd told me to treat it like a vacation, and that I could get a job when we got back to America and she was in grad school. We made an attempt to look for work closer to Chiyoda, but there wasn't much to be found, and in the end that's what I did. I taught the eikaiwa we had, but otherwise I studied Japanese, walked around the neighborhood, and played video games.

Like the article says, it was fine. I really enjoyed much of that year, though in the end I was having serious sleeping problems and it was clearly having an effect on me. But while I regret not doing more Japanese studying during that year, playing games was fun. It was interesting and challenging. The lack of a job didn't bother me at all. And why not? Unlike life, video games are fair. They have understandable rules that can be challenged and mastered, and predictable results from those rules. And if they don't fit those criteria, they're often bad games, and there are other games to play. There's no other lives to life.

That's one of the few things that provides me some hope about the automation apocalypse. Large groups of unemployed young men is usually a route to massive social unrest, if not outright revolution. If those young men are fine without work as long as they get to play video games, and if robots can do the work, well...why not let them? With some kind of basic income scheme rather than having people fight over increasingly dwindling jobs, which is what we're currently having people do? There will be massive social hurdles to overcome--"what do you mean, I'm working and my taxes are paying for him to play World of Warcraft 2?!"--but it seems like the only option that doesn't end in massive bloodshed or social unrest.

That part I'm less optimistic about. But at least I have a little hope.

Ach, mein discourse!

2017-Feb-08, Wednesday 09:51
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Multiple people have sent me this article about a parody of Wolfenstein 3D that relates to the current controversy. It is not subtle, but neither are Nazi calls for genocide. Hiyooo!  photo emot-sun.gif

Though actually, I think this is an excellent example of games as art, using the mechanics of the game to support its central point. "Isn't fascism just another political ideology?" you consider. What about their free speech? Isn't the best way to deal with bad speech more speech? If you resort to violence, aren't you no better than them?

And meanwhile the Nazis keep advancing, and keep shooting, and keep shooting, until you are dead. Because they don't care about free speech except insofar as it allows them to subvert and destroy liberal democracy from within. As the article says:
Naturally, people playing by a completely different set of rules will take advantage of this, and you’ll suffer.
This and a version of Papers, Please set in Dulles Airport are the games of our time.

Tatami love

2017-Jan-09, Monday 09:22
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
While I was catching up on my news articles this weekend, I saw an article on the Japan Times about the popularity of tatami among foreigners. And while the article reads a lot like a press release from the tatami-promotion association mentioned in the article itself, it does remind me of how much I loved the tatami mats in our house in Chiyoda.

What it says there is true. Tatami does feel really nice to walk on, with a kind of springiness that neither wood nor carpet has, and while I'm not sure agree that it "has a comforting, therapeutic effect reminiscent of strolling in a forest," I do like the smell.

Of course, it also has problems that neither wood or carpet does. There's a reason that futons always get folded up and put away in wooden cabinets when not in use, and that reason is tatami mold. It never happened to us, but Wide Island View ran an article while we were living in Hiroshima about someone else who found the source of the rotten smell in her apartment was a gigantic patch of black mold under her futon. I think that's less likely to happen here, since unlike Japan Chicago isn't incredibly humid all year, but it's not impossible. There's also 壁蝨 (dani, "mites") that live in the tatami.

None of this even happened to us, though, which is why I have such a rosy opinion.

If we really committed in some future house, I'd probably get a platform bed for our futon to keep it off the floor, but still close enough that it's sleeping near the ground. Or something like this, though perhaps not that expensive--that's five times what we paid for our futon.

This is all assuming I get a free hand at decorating, admittedly. And something tells me that tatami doesn't come in black unless it's pre-molded.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
A couple days ago, I read this article about the game Wurm Online and a man who was a king. I found it really poignant, the image of the author and the man riding together through an overgrown and abandoned landscape, littered with the crumbling ruins of what was once a vibrant community of players now almost all gone. A single house, alone in the wilderness, the last remnant of life.

Like this passage:
We haven’t seen a single soul since we left Strongbox but these towers are populated by NPC guards. Reminders that there used to be something worth protecting nearby. In this case, the flat land is peppered with bed frames. It used to be a collection of houses. But none of the walls, roofs or chimney stacks remain. Only bedframes, abandoned and forgotten.
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The other reason the Wurm Online article hit me is because I played World of Warcraft for six years, for thousands of hours of playtime, and I have almost no posts written about it on here. For a long time, I used my blog as a form of social media before Twitter and Tumble and Facebook rose to the prominence they now occupy, and once those took off, I stopped posting much of anything here that wasn't directly what happened in my daily life. That means I sometimes went weeks or months without posting, and that something that took up a huge portion of my life and the lives of many of my friends for years is left with almost no records. I even ended up accidentally deleting my screenshots at some point. All I have are memories.

Yesterday, [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I finished watching ToraDora, after having it on our to-watch list for almost six years. It's a deconstruction of the tsundere--one of the main characters is even voiced by Kugimiya Rie--with a happy ending that works out for nearly everyone. It's very Japanese in that "I will set aside my own happiness for now so that you can be happy and achieve your dreams" way, in multiple directions. And like many other such anime, it ends when high school does, happily, and the future is glowing brightly ahead as the characters walk forward into it. Even though these are high school relationships and the odds of them lasting past the beginning of college is very low, we don't want to see that. We want a happy ending.

That Japanese in the subject translates as "There is nothing that is eternal," which is the title of a story I wrote for that Scion LARP I was in and also one of the bedrock parts of my life philosophy. And while I was searching for the link to that story, I found this question on 知恵袋 (chiebukuro, "fount of knowledge") where someone asks if there is anything in this world that is eternal. One person says love, and one person says time, but the majority answer is that there is nothing.

I think that's what I write so much of my life down now. It's a way of holding out against entropy, of making the transitory experience of playing a single-player video game into something that can be shared with other people, of turning my experience of a good meal or an anime convention or a vacation into a record that will stand for longer than my memories do. There's already been plenty of times when I read an old blog post I wrote and find something I had forgotten or that I was remembering wrong, and writing it down meant that what really happened, or my perception thereof, remains.

We are, all of us, looking for something eternal. We will fail, inevitably. But that doesn't mean we can't try.

We don't build sandcastles in the hope that they'll last forever.

Are you there in my dreams?
Waiting there just for me?
Are you there for me?
Are you there for me?

I won't surrender
While hope still lives in this world...
Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif

On digital noise

2016-Oct-05, Wednesday 09:46
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Yesterday I came across this article by Andrew Sullivan about the downsides of constant digital connection. A lot of it is the same stuff that keeps popping up in articles everywhere, about how no one pays attention to each other anymore, and maybe we should put our phones down and actually talk to those next to us, and oh no why are people texting instead of calling, and the standard jeremiads about how smartphones are ruining the youths.  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif All of that ignores how I can keep in contact with friends from around the world, study Japanese while standing on a packed train, find my way around a foreign country without having to carry paper maps or wander the streets, make restaurant reservations in seconds, tell [ profile] softlykarou how long it will be until I can meet her in real time, and...well, if you're reading this, I don't have to keep elaborating because you know.

Multitasking degrades performance and people who read the news are more depressed, and it sounds like that was a lot of Andrew Sullivan's problems right there. But the part of the article that really drew my attention was this:
That Judeo-Christian tradition recognized a critical distinction — and tension — between noise and silence, between getting through the day and getting a grip on one’s whole life. The Sabbath — the Jewish institution co-opted by Christianity — was a collective imposition of relative silence, a moment of calm to reflect on our lives under the light of eternity. It helped define much of Western public life once a week for centuries — only to dissipate, with scarcely a passing regret, into the commercial cacophony of the past couple of decades. It reflected a now-battered belief that a sustained spiritual life is simply unfeasible for most mortals without these refuges from noise and work to buffer us and remind us who we really are. But just as modern street lighting has slowly blotted the stars from the visible skies, so too have cars and planes and factories and flickering digital screens combined to rob us of a silence that was previously regarded as integral to the health of the human imagination.
I don't currently have much silence in my life. Nearly every second of every day, I'm listening to a podcast. Even when I'm reading in bed at night, there's usually a podcast and some music going, since I'm trying to listen to and rate most of my music. And there are definitely times when I realized that I've been listening to a podcast for an hour and can't remember what any of it was.

Is that a problem, that I just want podcast noise in the background sometimes? Would I be better served by just setting Rain Rain on rain-on-roof and thunder sounds while I read? Obviously this doesn't apply in all situations--I remember work before I started listening to music and then podcasts, and it seemed to last a lot longer and was far more boring--but am I doing myself a disservice by eschewing silence elsewhere?

I remember the nights in Chiyoda. Living in the suburbs or the city as I had until that point, I hadn't really understood how quiet and dark the night was. I can just imagine my ancestors in England in winter during the new moon, when everything was deathly silent and pitch black, huddled indoors by the fire. That's why we lit the night (and why we, unlike the Japanese, have central heating). But I do remember going for walks in the hills around Chiyoda, and while it wasn't silent, the only sounds were the wind and the cicadas, the frogs, or the crunch of leaves or snow. Japanese has a word for that: 森林浴 (shinrinyoku, "forest bathing").

Sometimes I look forward to the day when I will have listened to all my podcasts. I wonder if my brain is trying to tell me something?  photo ashamed2.gif
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
So Steam fucked up big.

I got kind of lucky in that [ profile] softlykarou and I were at my parents' house, so I wasn't on Steam at all, and I only learned about the problem when scrolling through Twitter and someone retweeted a Kotaku tweet telling people to go in and remove their payment info. Except that's literally the worst thing they could have said, because as the top article says, it was page-caching error, and logging in would probably just give you someone else's page while adding your own page to the cache and letting other people see it. And you still couldn't make changes. Oops. It didn't expose people's credit card information as far as I know, but full name and address was visible.

I still haven't gotten an e-mail or anything from Valve about this, by the way.

This is just feeding into my conviction that computer security doesn't exist for the end user. You can make things worse, by using the same password everywhere or running unsecured Java or whatever, but unless you rigidly practice OPSEC when feeding information to different websites, you're only as secure as the company you deal with who cares the least about security is. And none of them will care that much until the cost of breaches is higher than the cost of letting things slide, because for the average end user, on the security <---> usability sliding scale, things are already too far toward the security end.

It's why I talk about "security through apathy." Your best defense is hoping that no one cares enough to target you personally. And most of the time you'll be right, but if you're not...  photo Kirby_Shake_WaddleDee_Emoticon_by_D.gif
dorchadas: (JCDenton)
I don't usually go out to eat. Partially because I'm cheap, but also because [ profile] softlykarou is a lovely cook who makes delicious food and I don't mind eating the same thing day-in and day-out for years at a time. So my weekday lunch has been the same for years at this point and I have no interest in changing it--I still look forward to that steak salad every day--but I still signed up for Sprig after hearing about it from somewhere. The pictures looked pretty nice, I nodded approvingly at them, and then went back to eating my steak salads.

A friend posted this article about Sprig and a different business involving picking up from home cooks, and it has quite a few good points. I mean
A harried courier extracts your meal from a fat insulated bag; you say “thank you,” close the door, and feel bad for a moment about the differences between your lives. Five stars.
Welcome to the cyberpunk dystopia, except more banal and with barely any neon or chrome. I may dress appropriately for the cyberpunk future, but I don't want to do more than my share as a member of a developed nation in bringing it about.

But a couple days ago, some algorithm on Sprig's servers noticed that while I had signed up, I had never interacted with them at all, and they offered me a free meal. Well, if it's free...

So I checked today's menu, and it was Grilled Harisssa Chicken with Semolina Couscous & Tzatziki ($11), Organic Quinoa Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes ($9), Rosemary Chicken & Squash Salad with Wild Rice ($11), Creamy Pesto Lasagna with Italian Sausage ($12), so pretty much exactly what you'd expect from an app with Sprig's premise. I put in the promo code, picked the rosemary salad, and waited. And in the lobby of the AMA building, I had one of these handed to me:

I'm not sure how the delivery works. The offices are just across the river from me, but the "5-15 minute" delivery time was more like twenty minutes, with the courier going seemingly strange directions several times. I figure she was running several deliveries at once, but it made the estimated time useless because it oscillated through 5 and 8 minutes remaining until snapping to 3 minutes and then having the courier call me to tell me it was hear in the span of thirty seconds. So, F for predictability, though with only one data point, take it with salt.

Also, from a cyberpunk dystopia standpoint, I'm a little perturbed that the app autocalculated the service charge at $1 with no way to increase it. I really hope the couriers are paid a high enough salary that it's just icing on the cake and they're not forced to make fifteen deliveries an hour to make ends meet, but somehow I doubt it.

The article's description of Sprig's food as pretty good cafeteria food is spot on. Here's what it looked like when I opened up the bag:

Maple vinaigrette, Brussels sprouts, and a slice of squash that I had to cut in pieces myself, plus the rice, chicken, and salad. It was pretty good, I admit. I'm especially happy that the dressing was obviously supposed to be a complement to the salad rather than the only thing you're supposed to taste. I hate it when salads are turned into a dressing swamp.

But pretty good is all I'll give it. At best, it was as good as the average quality of 愛妻弁当 that my wife makes me, and it couldn't compare to the best of those. And my brain looks at $11 and runs through a bunch of failures of cognition, like not calculating the value of the ingredients we buy for my usual lunch or the value of [ profile] softlykarou's labor, and comes up with $11 <<<< FREE, and it's obvious which one wins there. Plus the whole cyberpunk dystopia thing.

I did like that they threw in a coconut truffle in that little cardboard box, though.
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
I just finished watching this video about how Minecraft's encourages the ever-increasing looting of the earth in the pursuit of the player's goals:

And watching that, I realized that I think that's the main reason I prefer magical mods to tech mods. The mods that add a bunch of wires and pipes and power stations and so on eventually end up with Minecraft looking the same as the real world, with power lines strung everywhere, open pit mines, power plants spewing pollution into the surrounding terrain, oil spills, and all the rest. There's really no way around it without enormous amounts of inconvenience. A lot of the tech mods I've seen require mind-boggling amounts of raw materials to get set up, and if they allow automation, they don't allow it without scouring the earth down to the bedrock.

While there's nothing requiring that the player act to preserve the natural world with a magical modpack, it certainly makes it easier. Thaumcraft requires some raw materials, but the main progression is accomplished through going out into the world and analyzing various materials and then discovering formulae in your research base. Witchery actively requires a profusion of plant life near the player's altar, and Botania is entirely focused on magical flora. The culmination of all this is probably the Regrowth and Hubris modpacks. The first requires you to bring life to a lifeless wasteland, and the second is about surviving in a landscape corrupted by the arrogance of old wizards. Healing the land, not exploiting it.

I greatly prefer that kind of play. I tend to look for natural cave entrances when I'm looking for resources, and I usually build tree farms instead of chopping down pre-existing forests. In [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd's and my long-running game that we had to abandon due to server lag, our base looked like this:

We built our stronghold inside the tree and under the ground and lit it with fireflies, and the only sign that anyone lived there at all was a small fence around the door at the tree's base and lights burning in its boughs, plus a few nearby torches to ward off the night. That's my favorite way to play Minecraft.

Postscript: In fairness, I should say that one person who liked tech mods but didn't like ruining the world created a mod that adds a mining dimension that you can ruin instead. Whether that's actually philosophically different at all, I leave as an exercise for the reader.
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
So I saw this picture on Facebook yesterday, and now it's time for me to rant about it:

Original source here.

First of all, I take schadenfreude that statistically, half of the people in the comments who are complaining about McDonald's jobs are for kids and not meant to live on, that the workers should work harder if they want to get paid more, that they should go back to college, and all the other standard anti-labor talking points, will have their jobs replaced by robots. What's that, Mr. CPA? Your job was taken by a robot? Well, maybe you should also work 24 hours a day without food or sleep. You're obvious just lazy.  photo troll001.png

I'm not going to claim that I have the moral high ground with that, but since a ton of those comments are spiteful "I don't get paid that much, so they shouldn't either" whines, I don't particularly care.

But mostly, they don't seem to understand that one person's expenses are another person's income. I mean, giving money to the poor is incredibly effective in terms of fighting poverty, and it's one of the situations where the phrase "a rising tide lifts all boats" is most accurate. Poor people spend all their money because they have to to survive, that money becomes profit for other businesses, who also spend it, which benefits other people, etc., etc. Give that money to someone like me (or for that matter, raise my salary) and I'd just stash it in investments that may or may not do anyone any good or a savings account that definitely won't do anyone but me any good, but give it to people who have to spend it and it gets spent, and since the majority of the American economy is driven by consumer spending, well...

On the subject of inflation, here's a reasonable article. As it points out, the impact is likely to be minimal, and nowadays we need more inflation anyway to convince people to spend some of that money they've got locked away.

I suppose there's always the Shania Twain Defense for low wages...
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Star Trek's Leonard Nimoy dies at 83.

I never watched Star Trek when I was younger, nor did I really watch it when I got older. I've seen a few of the movies (I, IV, and whatever Nemesis was), a few scattered episodes here and there, and part of the first season of Enterprise back in university before we just mutually decided it wasn't worth watching.

Despite that, I still ended up as a second-order Star Trek fan, mostly through library books when we'd go visit my grandmother. I've read dozens of Star Trek novels in addition to spending hours pouring through Memory Alpha and Beta, and my favorite novels were always those of the original series. And of those, my favorite novel is Spock's World. I've been planning to reread it for a while now, but I think I need to push that up to next on my list.

His last tweet seems even more poignant now, in context:

LLAP indeed. ברוך דיין האמת \\//
dorchadas: (Grue)
As a general rule, I prefer to be alone. Parties and events on weekends make me nervous because my usual unwinding time from work gets interrupted and also because I spend time dreading their approach as an interruption of my usual alone time. That's not to say that I don't have fun when I get there, because I do, but the thought process I have before hand is "Ugh, that's right, I'm going to [X] this weekend. There goes my Saturday night."

That said, I might be approaching things the wrong way:
This mistaken preference for solitude stems partly from underestimating others’ interest in connecting (Experiments 3a and 3b), which in turn keeps people from learning the actual consequences of social interaction (Experiments 4a and 4b). The pleasure of connection seems contagious: In a laboratory waiting room, participants who were talked to had equally positive experiences as those instructed to talk (Experiment 5). Human beings are social animals. Those who misunderstand the consequences of social interactions may not, in at least some contexts, be social enough for their own well-being.
That line about "underestimating others’ interest in connecting" really hits home with me, because I almost never initiate a conversation over an electronic medium due to worrying about bothering the other person. I'm a lot better about it in the age of texting, because there's an understanding now that texting is asynchronous in a way that IMing never really was, but I still don't carry on nearly the same number of conversations online as a lot of people seem to.

And reading this article, I ended up thinking of some of the times people have randomly talked to me on the CTA. And while I get extremely annoyed about things like people talking on their phones on mass transit, and even conversations nearby bother me because those old images of everyone reading the newspaper and ignoring each other is my idealized commute, I have to admit that CTA conversations run about 50/50. Some of them are people bothering me when I'm trying to read, and that almost always just annoys me. But some of them are people chatting when I'm just wasting time on my phone, and those I end up enjoying despite myself.

The incident that springs to mind was a bunch of obviously drunk people making nuisances of themselves and playing around on the CTA, until one of them sat next to me, ignored my attempts to rebuff him, and we eventually got to chatting about why they were Chicago (they were glassblowers) and what they were doing on the CTA (they were attending the SOFA expo at Navy Pier). I actually enjoyed the conversation, and alighted at my stop after having written down the dates of SOFA for the next few years so I'd know about it if I wanted to attend as a guest.

That also ties into something else I sometimes think about, which is the desire to have (some) other people force through one's barriers to talk to you. If someone tries to initiate a conversation and keeps trying to talk even in the face of reluctance, it proves that they are actually interesting to talking to you and not just putting on a front for the sake of politeness, whereas if you initiate a conversation with someone else you have no such reassurance. But that doesn't work in reverse, and badgering people to talk is certainly more likely to get them to only chat out of politeness while actually thinking badly of you (and they have no way of accessing your inner life), so often I end up talking to no one even when I'd like people to talk to me.

The Hedgehog's Dilemma. It's a thing.
dorchadas: (desu)
So I was reading one of the cyberpunk image blogs I have on my RSS feeds (Flesh-coated Technology, for the curious), and a post popped up there that wasn't an image or a piece of tech news, but was instead a musing on how terrible the world was. Unlike most of the ones they reblog, though, this was one of those libertarian screeds about how come people don't care about the issues that are really important.

For example:
Here’s the truth about social justice and feminism. It’s a diversion. A smoke screen. Because if people ever realized exactly how bad things are, sexual and racial inequality would be the last thing on their minds. Women making 80 cents to a man’s dollar? How about the fact that fifty percent of your income is stolen at the point of a gun.
It goes on and on from there--you can read the rest here if you want.

Most the responses on Tumblr correctly point out that a) shockingly, it's possible to care about more than one thing at the same time and b) a lot of the problems there are related anyway. But the reason I'm writing about it is that the first thing the immediately leapt out at me is that all of it is complaining about issues that affect the (presumably white, straight, and male) author of the piece.

Nearly everything there is structured as, "You're worried about [issue that affects minorities and women]? What about the real [issue that could potentially affect straight white men]? Huh?! Why aren't you thinking of the real problems?!" I've noticed that in a lot of discourse over the years. Not just the focus on issues that affect them personally, which is pretty much a human thing and, while perhaps not laudable, shouldn't be condemned, but the whole "your worries are facile and dumb, you should worry about real problems, like the ones that might hurt me!" line of attack. It cropped up during the 2012 elections too, when some pollsters and commentators were baffled that women stubbornly refused to care about the economy as much as they were supposed to because they were carrying about reproductive rights.

The point about divide and conquer is somewhat well-taken, but see above about caring about more than one thing at a time. This kind of "your issues are just stupid fluff" line of criticism is part of why I find most libertarian thought so repulsive.

And if you're wondering why I'm blaming libertarians, it's that "stolen at the point of a gun" line. It's a dead giveaway.
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
I was reading and stumbled across this WIP of The Guardian Legend, which was one of my favorite games as a child even if I never managed to get more than halfway through the game, though I did go back four years ago and finally beat it.

Well, while looking around the internet to find a link to an OC ReMix of the Blue Lander theme (it's here, if you're curious) and instead I found a link to a two part article on The Guardian Legend (Part 1, Part 2) describing the author's childhood experiences and a picture Let's Play of the whole game.

The writer has a lot more emotional connection to the The Guardian Legend than I did, though he does describe some of the reasons I like it so much. The haunting feeling of being alone in a world filled with unknown hostile monsters, the message from the long-dead alien who urges you to destroy the planetary superweapon before it's too late, the dual gameplay which is part action RPG and part shoot-' has all the story complexity of most NES games (i.e., basically none), but I still found it really evocative.
If someone is reading this... I must have failed.

This star ‘NAJU’ was our home.

But we were invaded by evil life-forms.

Everyone except me was killed.
Not exactly Oscar material there, but to a nine-year-old it's much more compelling.

There are a lot of similarities to Blaster Master, which is the game I have my own connection to, and I chronicled my last attempt to beat it here. It...didn't go well. I got through The Guardian Legend using save states, though I limited myself to save-stating only in rooms where you'd normally get a password.

Anyway, the article is a good read, and has the full soundtrack (which is excellent) linked there and everything. It's worth twenty minutes of your time.

P.S.: Someone made a website!

Tisha b'Av

2014-Aug-05, Tuesday 17:58
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
So I was going to write a somewhat rambling blog post about how I'm not sure about mourning the destruction of the Temple when its rebuilding, even assuming the myriad difficulties involved in that were resolved amicably and to everyone's satisfaction, wouldn't impact my life in any way, not to mention the destruction going on now in Gaza makes it kind of hollow...

...but then I found this post that says pretty much what I was going to say already anyway, so I'll leave that link there and quote part of it:
During the Nine Days preceding Tisha B’Av, the 25-hour fast commemorating the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, we reflect on baseless hatred (sinat chinam). The Talmud teaches us that it was the baseless hatred among the people Israel that partially brought about the destruction of the Second Temple. (Along with, you know, high-level political drama with Rome.) We learn in Tractate Yoma:
“But why was the second Sanctuary destroyed, seeing that in its time they were occupying themselves with Torah, [observance of] precepts, and the practice of charity? Because therein prevailed hatred without cause.”
...and so it is incumbent upon us to reflect on the baseless hatred in our own lives – and in the world today – as we fast to commemorate its manifold victims.

If you ask me, we in the Jewish community have a lot of reflecting to do: baseless hatred is eating our community alive as the war in Gaza continues.
There's quite a bit more there, and I think it's worth reading.
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
Leading to all kinds of people worried that turning it on will somehow destroy the world, either by turning it into strange matter, creating a black hole, or something. One interview with a scientist went so far as to describe people with such worries as "twats," which I thought was a refreshing bit of directness. Even so, when I read about people's worries, all I can think about is, "Prepare for unforeseen consequences."

"They're waiting for you, Gordon. In the test chamber."

Awesome, lady

2007-Oct-18, Thursday 23:23
dorchadas: (Office Space)
You've taken my vengeance for me.

Mmm...juicy tidbits

2007-Sep-19, Wednesday 20:09
dorchadas: (Iocaine Powder)
So, I just read an article in Science News about how, in some cases, obesity may be contagious. Apparently, there's a certain virus which can convert stem cells into fat cells. In the experiment they did, 30 percent of obese test subjects showed antibodies related to the virus. Apparently, though, the virus is only contagious for a few weeks.

This is partially my axe to grind, since I think America would have a lot fewer problems if people wouldn't use "Well, they should show some personality responsibility!" as code for "They're disgusting, subhuman and aren't worthy of our help."

Why I hate Terry Goodkind:
Now with textual support!

The series started out okay, but rapidly descended into thinly disguised BDSM and torture porn, ultra-capitalism wanking / Ayn Rand fandom, and "any ends justify the means when the Ubermenschen do it!" pseudo-justifications for the heroes brutal and capricious mass murdering of their "enemies," which include peaceniks, 8-year old girls, rape victims, and communist Muslimsthe Imperial Order. Also, Richard overthrows an evil socialist empire by carving a statue imbued with the power of CAPITALISM!!111!1!!

The link there has a bullet point list of a lot of the "OMGWTF" moments in the series, complete with direct quotes from the books.

This weekend's Within Temptation concert was amazing. Sharon den Adel is a lot shorter and cuter in person than she looks in the band's music videos. She also sings just as well, which is really impressive considering the stuff you can do in a recording studio. My only complaint is that they didn't play It's the Fear, which is probably my favorite WT song.

I've gotten into Neverwinter Nights and Xenogears more lately. The first because I can play it with [personal profile] schoolpsychnerd and I never beat it originally, and the second because I've owned it for close to two years and still haven't beaten it. Hopefully that'll change soon, and then I can finally beat FFVII. Just in time for the new PSP to come out and me to play Tactics.

Woo gaming.


2007-Sep-10, Monday 19:03
dorchadas: (Gendowned)
So, I've just found possible the best example of the difference between science and SCIENCE!!!

Science is someone finding out that the colony collapse is probably caused by a virus

SCIENCE!!!! is some guy discovering that when you expose it to the right radio frequencies, you can burn salt water for fuel.

Yep. That's right. You can burn water.

Of course, this means all those wacky super-villain plots just got more plausible.



dorchadas: (Default)

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