Monthly Archives: August 2012

Words of “wisdom”


Just a few semi-random, semi-coherent bits of dubious advice.

(Just as a warning, it might be a good idea not to actually *take* any of this advice.)

 

Everyone is their own worst critic, until they post their stuff on the internet.

It takes more muscles to frown than smile. So frown a lot, you need the exercise.

There comes a certain point in a character redesign when you should stop, take a look, and possibly run away and change your name.

There are four great ways to induce panic: Michael Bay movies, new RPG editions, gay marriage and yelling “FIRE!” But you didn’t hear it from me.

Any problem can be solved with violence, provided you use enough. Note: the complete extinction of the human race may be an exception to this rule, but we currently lack conclusive evidence of that.

“A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.” – Willy Wonka

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It’s time for some quasi-philosophical rambling


Because there’s nothing I like doing more than incoherent crackrambles induced by too much Dresden Codak in too short a time, especially when also reading Eclipse Phase.

No this is not a crass attempt to direct attention to some of my favourite things; that’s scheduled for next week, in the limited sense that this blog has a schedule.

 

I’ve always had this kind of inclination towards transhumanism, which typically runs up against my instinctive aversion to utopianism. Usually, when anyone is trying to describe a utopia, be it a shiny perfect crystal spires future, living in harmony with nature [1], or the resounding triumph of [RUNPROGRAM:INSERT_PREFERRED_POLITICAL_PARTY.EXE] [2], they are trying to sell you something. And that kind of drove me away from transhumanism, because it always seemed to be writing cheques that it couldn’t cash.

And yet, now I’ve decided to adopt the label. I don’t know, I guess it’s one of those journey-destination things.

I don’t buy what we might call “perfection” transhumanism – singularities, immortality, erasing all the flaws of humanity. It may happen someday, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about humanity it’s that we can always arrange new flaws. What matters to me is the process – the enhancement of the human condition – rather than the product, which probably won’t happen and I’m not likely to be around if it does.

And hey. It’d be pretty silly if followers of a philosophy dedicated to intellectual and biological freedom chewed me out for following it wrong, wouldn’t it?

[lays in stock of fireproof materials just in case]

– OSM out

 

  1. *cough*red in tooth and claw*cough*
  2. People who have seen me on forums or whatever probably recognise this as one of my favourite things to do ever.

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Political Ideologies I Don’t Follow


Politics. It’s an annoying thing that gets in the way and gives people with no conceivable sense of compassion the chance to ride roughshod over entire nations. What’s not to like?

 

Free Market Capitalism

“Hey, let’s take as many restrictions as possible away from corporations. That can’t possibly end badly.”

This is based on robust data collection methods and is certainly not crap I made up

Yay for the free market.

 

Anarcho-primitivism

[is on computer]

Oh hey look at that, a reason for me to not like anarcho-primitivism.

 

Communism

An entire century of consistent hopeless failure isn’t enough?

 

Social Darwinism

If I even need to explain this to you, you need to go and read a history book, preferably one dedicated to Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.

 

Libertarianism

I kind of vaguely sympathise with the goals of this philosophy; I just think it’s hopelessly naïve.

 

Conservatism

“Hey, let’s totally keep doing this thing that didn’t work fifty years ago and probably won’t work now.”

 

So what am I, politically?

 

Sarcastic, mainly.

 

OK, so I’m not a political scientist. It’s just that Eclipse Phase always gets me thinking about politics for some reason and I needed something to post that wasn’t a thousand-word rant about Cacti, the Living Landmines.

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Surviving the Internet: Logical Fallacies Part 2


Our species has accumulated so many of these things. It’s downright amazing.

Again: not a logician, magician, or statistician. Just a guy with time on his hands.

 

Appeal to consequences

Structure: “If everyone believed there were nearly 7 billion people on the face of the Earth, some of them would become serial killers because they have so many targets. Thus, there are not nearly 7 billion people.”

Calculating the accuracy of a statement using the consequences you think it will have is like trying to calculate the weight of a car based on its colour. They’re just…not comparable.

 

Argument from verbosity

Structure: “[800 pages of rambling]. Therefore, Xenu exists.”

If you’ve said too much for anyone to ever actually read, a) you win automatically, and b) you really, really need to get a life. Those are the two fundamental premises of this one.

 

Begging the question

Structure: “Bill will back me up on this, and you know he’s trustworthy because I can vouch for him.”

It’s quite hard to pull off a proper question-beg. The first thing you need to do is come up with a premise that already assumes that what you are trying to argue is true. Then you need to run that premise through a neatly cyclic argument so that it ends up proving itself.

 

Chronological snobbery

Structure: “They believed sex made babies back when people thought the Earth was flat. Therefore, sex does not produce offspring.”

According to chronological snobbery arguments, when one thing believed at a time is wrong, it makes everything else believed at that time wrong simultaneously. The logical corollary is that everything that anyone has ever believed is wrong and we should just take up chainsaw juggling instead.

 

Exception proves the rule

Structure: “Life is good, apart from the groin beetles. They’re the exception that proves the rule.”

“The exception proves the rule” is easily the most misused phrase in human history, narrowly beating out “I’ll respect you in the morning” because the people using that one at least know that they don’t mean it. What it actually means is that if you see a sign saying “No starting fires during January”, you can infer from that exception that the rule is “you can start fires in any other month”.

 

Gambler’s fallacy

Structure: “I’ve rolled all the 1s out of this twenty-sider, thereby making it more likely to come up as 20.”

Probability DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY! GOODNIGHT!

More seriously (and when I’m being serious things have gone downhill), the gambler’s fallacy is assuming that the relative probability of events remains the same no matter which stage you’re at. If a die has rolled multiple 1’s, this does not make it less likely to be 1 next time. (Indeed, it could indicate that the die is poorly balanced.) Likewise, a number of black results on a fair roulette wheel (not that any casino would use one) does not indicate that red is due for a run.

 

Ignoratio elenchi

Structure: “All dogs are animals. All terriers are dogs. Therefore, all terriers are animals. What do you mean, we were discussing werewolves?”

Ignoratio elenchi arguments tend to be robustly logical, internally consistent, and generally correct, but do not, in fact, address the point they were trying to refute.

 

Kettle logic

Structure: “I never borrowed your Xbox! I returned it undamaged! It was damaged when I borrowed it!”

The favoured tactic of Bart Simpson and anyone who’s ever panicked, a kettle logic approach consists of throwing multiple inconsistent positions at your opponent, then running away.

 

Misleading vividness

Structure: “[describes partial birth abortion in the most grotesque terms available], therefore we should ban abortion.”

The trick to making vividness misleading is to direct it at an extreme case and hope the more mundane and reasonable variants get caught in the blast radius. Then you describe that extreme case as convincingly as possible, and let it run from there.

 

Nirvana fallacy

Structure: “Your suggestion of going around the quicksand is good, but it doesn’t prevent us from getting stuff on our boots or tripping over rocks. Come up with something better.”

Ah, perfection. If you have no ability to produce it yourself but demand it from your underlings, you may be a middle manager. You may also be quite fond of the Nirvana fallacy, in which you reject good solutions for being imperfect. Well, yes, everything is imperfect, even chocolate.

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Rant #2: Elves


Whenever I see elves in a fantasy setting, or another race in fantasy or sci-fi who fills a similar role (see: the Viera, Nox, and Guado), unless the author makes it very clear that the traditional arrogant snottiness is a bad thing (or, gasp, , I tend to have odd visions involving fire. And lightning. And reanimated chipmunks. And raccoons. On fire.

 

I dunno, maybe it’s just that people whose sole cultural trait is being smug tend to rub me the wrong way when the guy writing the script doesn’t realise that they are being smug.

This is replacing the usual rambling, mainly because of exposure to the Viera and Nox within too short a window.

 

 

NOTABLY BRICKABLE ELVES

Warhammer Elves: OK, the main reward their smugness has gotten them is a seemingly endless string of defeats, but overpowered special rules (High) or units (accursed War Hydras!) neatly add them to the Brick List.

Eldar (WH40K): I’ll admit that the schizoid tendencies and frequent bullet wounds make them a bit more interesting, but they’re still, fundamentally, smug and condescending space elves. Still doesn’t explain why the Tau have a better standard issue firearm despite having been space-capable for, what, millions of years less than the Eldar? Do they just like having low-quality weapons? Does the whine of a pulse rifle disturb their meditation? Are they just not as smart as they like to pretend they are?

The Viera (FFXII): OK, they’re Playboy refugees but the principle is the same: smug individuals with their heads lodged firmly up their backsides who hang out in a forest with a default policy of “if we can’t see the innocent suffering, we don’t have to feel guilty about it.” Doesn’t help that the Viera member of the party is among the worst at all the stuff she’s theoretically supposed to be good at (even firing a bow, due to some stupidity with custom firing animations).

The Nox (Stargate): These…I hesitate to say “villains”, so let’s go with “agonisingly dim, self-righteous dunces” are tree-dwelling space elves. Especially fun when they’re giving lectures to the heroes for the terrible sin of not wanting their homeworld to be ruthlessly enslaved by megalomaniacal aliens, and for having no resurrection or invisibility magic to use in doing so. Thank goodness for the Asgard, conclusive proof that in Stargate not all advanced alien races are  condescending prats or genocidal maniacs, just most of them.

The Guado (FFX): Well, OK, just Seymour. That guy just won’t lie down and die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCEPTIONS

Not all elves are jerks, and not all those who are jerks are unendurable. You have my permission to like Spock, the elves of Lord of the Rings, the Blood Elves, the Protoss, the Minbari, the Valaes Tairn, or the played-for-laughs elves of Eight-Bit Theatre. Pretty much all others…yeah.

 

 

 

 

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Surviving the Internet: Logical Fallacies Part 1


Ah, logic. The most beloved tool of hack sci-fi writers and Sheldon Cooper. You will not find any of it in here. This, rather, will contain a brief listing of common fallacies you’ll find during your stay with us here on the Interweb.

 

I should note that I’m not actually a logician or philosopher. I’m just a guy with time on his hands.

 

Appeal to authority

Structure: “Ah, but when discussing [subject not related to science], [respected scientist] said this…”

We tend to assume that famous or smart people know more about all subjects than we do. This is probably because, as a group, we are silly. [cue the late Graham Chapman in a colonel’s uniform]

 

Argument ad hominem

Structure: “We can’t trust Steve to come up with good homebrew for D&D. He’s got a big nose.”

Reason? Who needs it? Just haul up one of your opponent’s negative traits and act as though that totally disqualifies him from being listened to or having a point. While it may, in some circumstances, be relevant – “who are you to call me on drinking, you wake up hungover five nights a week” – it is rarely made along these lines and generally takes the form of “you are a bad X because of irrelevant trait Y”.

 

Argument ad nauseam

Structure: “But Tau are the best army.” [repeat 40 000 times]

If you can’t win through logic, go for victory through exhaustion. If everyone else is heartily sick of the argument, they will either withdraw in disgust or give in just to shut you up.

 

Correlation and causation

Structure: “So she never learned to pole dance, and then someone drove a 4WD through her house. Therefore, everyone should learn to pole dance to prevent people driving 4WDs through their houses.”

You can get some very weird results when you assume all correlated things are linked. My age, for example, is correlated with inflation. In a correlation/causation argument, if inflation was therefore stopped, I would never age another day.

 

False dichotomy

Structure: “They’re not keeping 3e Infernals the same, so they’re obviously changing everything about them.”

The absolute essential trick to this one is to completely ignore any degree of subtlety. We’re talking levels of black and white that would make the average Steve Ditko character stare slack-jawed at you. Once you’ve got that down, you should be able to apply this with no qualms whatsoever.

 

Grey fallacy

Structure: “Bob says all scientists are space lizards. Andy says no scientists are space lizards. I guess this means half of all scientists are space lizards.”

When two people say precisely opposite things, many will try and harmonise them by assuming the truth lies somewhere in between. Fact checking is hard, after all.

 

Quote mining

Structure: “Ah, but you see, Darwin said [thing that meant exactly the opposite in context].”

A mutant form of appeal to authority, the first step in a good quote mine is to find a quote that, if all that icky “context” stuff was scraped off, would support your point. Then scrape off the context and print it. Movie reviews do this all the time by delicately expunging all the negative parts and replacing each with an ellipsis.

 

Reductio ad absurdum

Structure: see every example on this page

It’s OK when I do it, because I’m trying to exaggerate things for humorous purposes. Really.

 

Slippery slope

Structure: “If we raise the speed limit by 5km in that area, soon the entire state will have 200km/hr school zones.”

The trick to a good slippery slope argument is to assume that everyone else on Earth is totally devoid of a sense of proportion and obviously can’t be trusted to tell the difference between raising taxes by 1% and raising them by 111%, or between legalising abortion and legalising the hunting of poor people for sport. Once you’ve internalised the knowledge that nobody else can be trusted to recognise “too far”, you can now make these arguments all you like.

 

Total nonsense

Structure: “The New Testament God is all rainbows and kittens. The Old Testament God is all wrath and smiting. Thus, the Old Testament God is a tribe of RENEGADE SPACE CANNIBALS!” (1)

It is impossible to argue with the logic in these arguments, since there isn’t any. If you’ve seen the Chewbacca Defence episode of South Park, you’ll be familiar with the basic idea: to confuse your enemies so much they withdraw immediately.

 

  1. Not making this up.

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Thursday Afternoon Rambling #2


So. Life. Things are happening. I’m not sure what things, but they’re happening!

 

Somewhat shamefully, I haven’t looked at the Curiosity Rover’s images yet. I’ll do it soon, honest! But between this and the Exalted 3e announcement, it is a good time to be a nerd.

 

I’ve found that when you’re stressed out or tired, there’s nothing like a Dwarf Fortress succession game to help you forget your troubles. By giving you hilarious new ones caused by someone dropping the ball four in-game years previously. The results are always fun, and often Fun.

 

If you’re noodling around aimlessly on the Internet, and I assume you must be otherwise you wouldn’t be here, try doing what I do and read really old flamewars about a subject you find interesting and laugh and laugh and laugh. Bonus points if it’s one you participated in and had forgotten about.

 

Dogs. Why must they bark at everything?

 

On the same note, fire. Why must it burn things?

 

I’ve found that anger is bad for your teeth. Or at least bad for mine. Gritting them for ten minutes at a time can be quite painful!

 

Pointless filler, ACHIEVED!

 

– OSM out.

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