10 December 2010

26 September 2010

Dear Readers, your opinions please

I am considering utilizing this blog a bit more actively, even though I have my new one. This would be a place for my private ruminations and observations, as it once was. I would like to know if you would care to see that at all.

Furthermore, I have a very large back history of posts that I removed from this blog and saved elsewhere - something like 190 posts. I could restore this, if there is interest.

Lastly, I have a lot of material from (what I like to pretentiously call) my memoirs I could also publish.

What think you, those who would even still read this thing?

11 August 2010

New Blog

I have packed my things and started a new blog at WordPress:

It may not interest you. It'll mostly be about philosophy.

08 July 2010

Cert Com

Commanding Officer, 3D Maintenance Battalion
takes pleasure in commending
Lance Corporal J. Durden
United States Marine Corps

Superior performance in the execution of his duties while serving as a Test Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Repair Technician, Calibration Platoon, Electronics Maintenance Company, 3D Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3D Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force from 15 January 2009 to 12 February 2010. During this period Lance Corporal Durden performed his demanding duties in an exemplary and highly professional manner. Lance Corporal Durden's perseverance, professionalism, and devotion to duty contributed directly to the success of Electronic Maintenance Company's mission accomplishment. Lance Corporal Durden was the resident expert on the J4843 Single Channel Ground to Air radio test set adapter and the Advanced Tactical Agile Communications Test Set. Lance Corporal Durden submitted numerous technical instructions to the Automated Test Equipment Office on improvements for calibration procedures, which were incorporated by the program office. Lance Corporal Durden repaired and calibrated over 160 pieces of test measurement and diagnostic equipment during his one year tour on Okinawa. Lance Corporal Durden's initiative and professionalism reflected credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Marine Corps.

XXXX X. Poole, III
Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. Marine Corps

05 April 2010

God Complex pt 1

On February 13th, 2010, I decide to go to class despite not feeling up to the task. For approximately $5, I purchase a small leather-bound journal in which I can take notes or write. I'd been sketching in my on duty log book and thought I could use the new journal to help me clear my head. I'd had a lot on my plate and I was overdue for some head clearing.
During class I can barely pay attention to the lecture. I'm more worried about the background noise of my life – a false rape accusation from internet blogger Lady Raine and a project to help improve my command climate namely. Months of research and learning seemed to be congealing into one unified theory. Communication processes seemed to lie at the heart of my troubles, personal and professional.
In a sense, reality is constructed as people decode the world around them. The words we choose to use and the way we choose to present ourselves are ultimately irrelevant – all that truly matters is how other people perceive us. Language is notoriously slippery and some might argue a poor vehicle for communication geared towards perfect understanding; there are too many words, too many definitions for the same word, too many vagaries. I had created a mental model designed to free people to think outside the box, which I called “dividing by zero,” and most of my class time on February 13th is spent thinking about this model and writing about it.
Sometime on February 14th, I complete a post which I call “The Organization of God.” I begin to think I have discovered an eternal and divine secret. I dub my discovery 'eternal language' and start sharing it with several of the Marines I serve with. The idea is relatively simple – if anything can be represented using a single line, then it is safe to say that infinity can be represented using a single line. And if we take three lines and make a triangle, we have found an efficient way for organizing ideas – after all, the triangle is one of the strongest shapes for building. But we can take three triangles and structure them in such a way as to maximize efficiency, in a pattern that mirrors the “TriForce” from the popular video game series The Legend of Zelda. This only requires us to draw three more lines but we get 12 lines in total.
The power of this mental model was that anything could be represented using a single line. So you could define the ideal Marine as having three different traits – Honor, Courage, and Commitment, for example – and that would make a triangle. And you could take two other Marine triangles and create the ideal small Marine group (fire team). But you could also take that group and represent it using a single triangle, each line in the triangle representing a Marine, to build the next larger group (squad). This process allows for infinite regress (you can continually define Honor, for example, by building a triangle that makes Honor) and infinite progress (the entire Marine Corps might be represented by 12 lines).

I haven't slept or really eaten much since going to class on the 13th. I'm too excited about my idea, and it seems to me that I'd found a way to beat sleep and beat eating as it was anyway. More data needed to be collected, however, before I could be sure that I'd solved the secret formula that allowed for miracles – something which seemed entirely rational and possible to me at this point.
Around February 15th, I decide to go and test my model. I try to get LCpl R., one of my closest friends, to come and test the model with me but he's too busy playing Dante's Inferno. On my way out of the building, I run into LCpl P. and LCpl C., and ask them to come do some exercises with me. They agree and we head out together. We go straight for the pull up bars, as pull ups are my least favorite exercise and the bane of my Marine Corps career – therefore they are the perfect target for my model. I explain the method for tackling pull ups – we were going to apply my triangular model and do three sets of three pull ups. We get on the bar and do the first three without any trouble. “I'm feeling pretty good,” I say “how are you guys feeling?”
“Pretty good.”
“Good. Let's do another three.” We knock out the three pull ups without any trouble. A little more back and forth and we knock out the next three as well. I drop down off the bar and start throwing my arms back, stretching out my muscles, while I pace and talk. “That was pretty easy, wasn't it? So in theory, we just proved to ourselves we can do three pull ups, no problem. So four pull ups shouldn't be all that hard, now should it?”
They respond favorably and we do four pull ups, which I begin to struggle with. We drop off the bar and I suggest we all verbally count our pull ups as we do them, loud and clear, so that we all know we're doing them together and getting them done. So we mount up and do our four pull ups, which we are able to get done but I lag behind slightly. We dismount and I try to get fired up. “Four pull ups isn't anything at all, is it!? This isn't hard at at all, is it!? We've got this! We can do this! This is simple!” We finish the four pull ups and drop off the bar.
I decide it's time to change the exercise to sit ups, another event in the Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test. I ask LCpl P. if he's okay with doing sit ups, as he is currently nursing a hip injury. We agree to do a number of sit ups – forty or so – at his pace to ensure that he doesn't hurt himself. I ask him how he's doing every ten sit ups or so to double check and make sure his hip injury isn't bothering him. In my head, I am curing him of his injury.
When the forty sit ups are done, I suggest we do double the amount and that we do them faster. Everyone agrees and we proceed to do our sit ups at a faster pace. Every ten or so I ask LCpl P. how his hip feels and he always replies that he's feeling good. I'm very fired up and excited about what we're doing, counting each repetition loudly and trying to get the other two Marines to do the same.
We finish and I have the Marines stand up. I tell them we're going to do pull ups again and we're going to try for a miracle. As I walk to my bar, I slow my pace down and get an idea in my head – I don't need to perform the miracle I intend (performing 20 pull ups) in order to prove my system. So I turn on my heel and begin to talk to the Marines, like a salesman or a preacher. “What's one thing you know is true about LCpl Durden,” I ask them, “One thing that maybe you didn't like about him?”
I don't give them much of a chance to answer. “He's always been smarter than you, hasn't he? Always been better at school, wasn't he? And how'd that make you feel? Pretty jealous right? But I'm here to tell you that shouldn't matter.” I'm standing about three paces in front of them, and all I can pay attention to is the triangle that's created by our positions, with me at the head and the other two Marines forming the base. “There's a secret language that explains everything.”
“It's the language of eternity. It's simple and anyone can learn it. We've been learning it together right now. You can take any idea and think of it as a triangle,” I say, putting up my hands in such a way as to form a triangle, “and this will help you see things more clearly. Look at the space between us. It forms a triangle. Look at the space over there...” I begin pointing out triangles everywhere. I tell them I'm going to help them feel eternity. I picture the triangle formed by our three bodies and I extend my consciousness as far outside my body as I can, so that I see the three of us form a bird's eye view. We rapidly get smaller and smaller until I call myself back down to reality.
“Did you feel that?” I ask. They give stammered responses. I would only learn later that I was in a state of mania and that what I perceived as happening isn't what was actually happening, so I do not know what either of these Marines may have said at this juncture. “This has been taught to you before, so many times, in so many different ways.” I thought I had found the common secret that explained all religions. Jesus had twelve disciples, and my TriForce configuration had twelve sides. Plato talked about the eternal form and how orthographies weren't trustworthy and this seemed to fit perfectly. A marriage of belief and reason. It seemed all powerful – for me, was all powerful.
I viewed every conflict as a battle of logic versus illogic, or sometimes systems of logic competing illogically. My system would unify all logic to one side and forever defeat illogic. I called this the “eternal battle” and I spoke of it to the Marines in my manic state. At one point, I remember putting my foot on the step-up to the pull up bar to elevate myself above my peers and tell them about this battle, and I swear I saw that stretch of land transform and depict battles ancient to modern over the span of about ten seconds – ending in an apocalyptic scorched earth style landscape before reverting back to regular reality.
I tell them I want to let them in on the secret (to eternal happiness, though they are unaware what the secret is) but I'm afraid one of them will betray us. My system at this point is based on the rule of three – every good idea or person is built from three fundamental principles, and every group is built of three solid individuals. If one person betrayed the other two people, I thought, then those two people would be stuck in eternity forever with no way to escape back to reality. After endless back and forth, which involves me whispering in one Marine's ear while the other has his back turned and so forth, I decide we'd spent enough time “working out” and that it's time to go back to the barracks.
I notice with an absent mind that LCpl P. doesn't return with us. In reality this is because he became fed up with my manic antics and preaching behavior and left, but in my altered state of consciousness I worry that I had taken him to eternity and he had found it too good to leave behind. I try to go tell LCpl R. about my successes but he's still too busy with his video game to listen with much enthusiasm, so I go back to my room to reflect...

28 March 2010

Being a "Wounded Warrior" Without Any Wounds

I'm now a part of the Wounded Warrior Battalion, which was set up to aid Marines who are ill or injured in either reintegrating with the operating forces, or transitioning out of the Marine Corps entirely. I fall into the ill category and as far as I know I'll be transitioning out, due to a manic episode I had in the middle of February.

Being a part of this battalion makes me feel guilty. I'm not injured like a lot of the other Marines are - missing limbs, wheel chair bound, walking with sticks and so on. While I was checking in, I was shown around by a Marine who is missing his right leg below the knee - here I am, walking around in perfectly fine physical health, and I'm checked into the same unit as him.

So far there hasn't been any kind of negative attitudes directed at me or anything of that sort, but I still feel bad regardless.

I'm still getting used to everything and to writing, so don't expect any mind blowing posts for a while. I'll slowly be working myself up to writing about the episode over the coming weeks.

22 March 2010

Not Dead, Just Not Alive

Hello, all - all who read this, anyway.

I'm writing to say that I'm not dead. I recently had a manic episode which sent me away from my command in Okinawa and sent me to a Naval Hospital in San Diego.

I will write more about that at a later date but as for right now I just wanted to get the news out that I'm alive and kicking, more or less. I'll be getting regular access to the internet again soon and so will write more about what happened to me and what it all means in due time. Life changing stuff, to be sure.

Sorry to drop off the face of the earth like that, it wasn't my intention, but I've been stuck in this place since February 19th. Things moved rather quickly for me once I had my episode and it was all very strange and surreal.

More later!

15 February 2010

Getting Started on Taking Action

The powers that be have decided that I have gotten a little too personal on the main magazine here of late, and for that I apologize. The only reason I did that is because I now have a grand, long range vision. But I forgot to explain all the important steps along the way.

I wanted to make you all Generals, but I didn't take you through basic training or give you the ability OR opportunity to win battles and campaigns and all that - as I have done. For that I apologize. I got excited and went "too fast." So, I'll slow it down.

This post is for people who want to take action and who want to do something about the problems that are afflicting them in their daily lives - the problems we're all very familiar with. I am going to give you the basic building blocks in this post, and we will combine them in a way which will make sense. In future posts, I will give you tactics to be individually successful. After that, we can talk about groups.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. First, we need to focus on individuals. Consider this "basic training" if you must. The war metaphor is apt but do not take it literally - remember, brothers, this is a completely non-violent approach.

The most important thing you need for this process to work, the fundamental building block, is belief that you can actually do something about any problems you perceive are bothering you - belief in yourself. If you do not have this belief, then everything else I say is going to be meaningless. I have laid out a path for you to acquire this belief. If you already have it, then read on, otherwise, I recommend you go back to these posts and try again. If you do not believe that anything can be done and you're banging your head against my previous posts, then just ignore me from here on out. I probably won't be writing the kinds of articles you would like to read.
  • Control your rage
  • Mitigate your despair
  • Release yourself from the burdens you bear (namely, your rage and despair)
  • Transcend so that you can learn from your past and take action for your future

  • The above process took me 5 years, so it could take you a while. Then again, I had to figure out how to do it on myself - nobody dropped out of the sky (or into my internet machine) to say "hey there you! Do this and it'll work!" Your results may vary.

    Okay, so you have your belief, right? Good. That forms our base. Next, you need a willingness to act on that belief. That should be simple enough - if you believe enough, then the willingness to act will come naturally. You'll gain more confidence to act as you build a record of success in your actions. It will help if you perceive what you might call "losses" as "lessons," as well. After all, what do you really have to "lose" by trying to talk to other people and convince them that they should stop thinking poorly?

    I know what you're going to say. But J. Durden - they can take this and that away from me, because I can be accused of harrassment and rape and all of that! Very true, brother. This is why you have to be careful. Follow my guidance and I'll teach you how to be careful. I suppose you'll just have to trust me on this point, but for right now, focus on believing in yourself.

    So we have two fundamental elements. We need a third element before we can really have anything substantial. That third element is proficiency with human communication skills. This may sound daunting, because there are many different skills to build in the human communication skill set. I want to build confidence so here's what I suggest, if you are apprehensive about your skill set - start mastering the communication method you are most comfortable in. Some people prefer face-to-face as opposed to internet-based; some prefer just the opposite. Don't let anyone tell you which is "best," because what is best in theory isn't best for you.

    Stick to your guns!

    If you think I'm "selling" you a load of bull - consider this. I'm not asking for your money, am I? Nor am I requiring you to do any of the things I suggest you do - I'm freely offering my helpful and experienced advice. It is up to you whether or not you want to believe in it, enough to give it a shot anyway. You don't have to buy my book on "The Game" to start bridging that gap between the genders and to get what you really want - speaking of which, I should write a post on that later.

    In my next post, we'll be putting all these pieces together. Until next time, brothers!

    14 February 2010

    Pithy Observations From an Insignificant Nobody - A Psychedelic Cyberspace Adventure (Now With Hyperlinks!!)

    Greetings all,

    Today I'm bringing you a bit of a "cheap" post. I hope you won't feel too cheated by my approach. I feel like I've been making some good analogies, arguments and observations in various places and I thought I'd collect them all here for your digestion. There may even be a hidden order in the way that I present them! I'll be more or less reproducing them in whole (while adding some applicable additional hyperlinks), while tracing back to the original post. Format for the arguments will be as follows:

    Pompous Title; Originating Web Site


    1. Inevitability is a Logical Fallacy; In Mala Fide

    Just because something is unlikely does not mean it is, strictly speaking, impossible. Inevitability is a useful concept to help people understand complicated phenomenon and accept extremely high probabilities, but it, like most other human concepts, doesn’t exist in nature. As we advance our knowledge of the world, our hard and fast conceptions – long thought to be impervious to cracking – are showing their age. Just take a look at what quantum mechanics [CYBERSPACE EDIT: and how long will it be until quantum mechanics is replaced by a new "absolute truth" system?] tells us – observing experiments fundamentally alters the outcome. What kind of “laws of nature” can we truly believe in as a result of this finding?

    That being said, we cannot say “MRAs succeeding is an impossibility” merely because we perceive the odds of its success to asymptotically approach zero. Have we even proven the odds of success asymptotically approach zero, for instance? And by what metrics and what standards of evidence? Are there any biases present in those metrics and systems of evaluation? As we are now finding out, systems of idolatry centered around the "infallible" powers of mathematics are capable of spectacular catastrophe and spectacular success in relatively equal amounts (if not necessarily probabilities).

    Believe what you want, but I would caution you – and everyone else – to not adopt a system of belief centered on too many absolutes. Adaptability has always been recognized as a key to survival – why not be adaptable in our thinking and believing, as well? [CYBERSPACE EDIT: This is not an advocacy of "anything goes." Just to be clear.]

    2. Study Under Many Masters Until You Are The Master (of Yourself); The Spearhead

    In response to this, I offer:

    Unfortunately I don’t have the time to analyze for more strategies/tactics. I have plenty to offer already to those who have none, but no time to devote to acquiring more. Mine are finely honed as well and you could say I have yet to be defeated.

    No harm in studying under several masters – synthesizing is an excellent skill to employ and true mastery comes from selecting/perfecting a technique that is perfect to your own sensibilities; not endlessly trying to mirror another’s.

    3. The Man in the Burning House Analogy, or, Why Exiling Women May Be Poor Long-Range Thinking; tooting my own horn yet again on The Spearhead

    In response to Connie Chastain, who said this:

    I’m a woman and I’m an ally. I’m a boomer and I’ve been opposed to feminism since I first became aware of it in the late 1960s. I was opposed to it years before I ever knew of the MRM. If you don’t like the idea of allies who are women, maybe you’ll feel more comfortable thinking of antifeminist women as the enemy of your enemy…. In any case, I don’t foresee ever moderating my opposition to feminism.

    Connie, I just wanted to be sure to pick this out and promote it. As I’ve outlined elsewhere, feminism is an idea, not a person or group of people. Anyone can be a feminist, regardless of biological sex, “race,” age, or any other discriminating factor you can think of. Therefore, we cannot expect to defeat feminism with ineffective tactics like blocking off all women.

    I don’t think many here are ready to think about it or really hear this message, but feminism isn’t even, necessarily, the root cause. If humanity were a man, this is the situation that man finds himself in:

    Someone has broken into his home, stolen his most valuable possession (a possession of incalculable value, primarily due to sentimental value), grievously wounded his family, lit his house on fire and left him bleeding out on the floor from a gut stab. Furthermore, that man has lost his phone and the nearest medical aid is several minutes away – rather significant in this sort of situation.

    What problem do you tackle first? In what order do you undo the wrongs? What things do you allow to decay? You can’t sit around and think about this sort of thing forever – or the house will burn down, your family will die from their injuries, and you yourself will perish by bleeding out.

    Feminism, in this analogy, is only one of the things we have to worry about.

    4. The Root Cause; The Lady's Lair

    The root factor in nearly all human difficulties seems to be tied to language facilities; specifically, language ideologies have had a major and largely unnoticed impact. Ever get the sense that you’re talking to a wall when you should be talking to another human being? That’s probably the work of a language ideology – either one that you hold, or one that the person you’re talking to holds. If you both have the same language ideology, then there’s no problem, and in fact, efficient ability to communicate is increased. Competing language ideologies, however, absolutely destroy the ability to communicate. One step to eliminate this is to agree to speak the same language – whatever form that language may take. If you can’t agree on the language, then there’s no point in talking!

    Here are some communication fundamentals a lot of people don’t think about.

    5. Equality That Makes Sense, Not Same; self-promoting on The Spearhead

    In reply to this:

    Women are equal, but they’re not the same. It’s a slight distinction, but a powerful one.

    This is the kind of thinking that got us to our present situation. It is far better to simply state that men and women are not the same, or to add a caveat that women are perhaps of “equal worth” or worthy of “equal consideration.” Stating that they are simply equal to men implies that there are no significant differences, and, furthermore, through repeated use (see also language ideologies) erases important and meaningful differences from public consciousness.

    Honorable mention goes to Stark, who probably said the above in a much more concise way: Worthy of treatment as equals – not equal treatment.

    6. The Public Credentialing System (With/As An Assist From/To Anti-feminist Tech); more shameless self promotion from The Spearhead

    Anti-feminist tech wrote:

    Since we know that they didn’t receive an education, a new word is needed to describe the process of going to school, receiving a degree without gaining any real knowledge or education. I propose, credentialation.

    Clearly, great minds think alike. I have been proposing the same exact idea – and even terms! – in my private life. I encourage everyone to consider this model for understanding the public education system (from hereafter, the public credentialing system) and apply it to your everyday life. The worst thing that could happen by adopting this new phrase ("the public credentialing system") is that people won’t know what you’re talking about – but that’s already happening anyway. The best thing that could happen is you open a new channel of communication and thus break new ground for reaching understanding with other people. Most likely, they will ask you to explain what you mean. If you go about explaining carefully and respectfully enough, you may even persuade them to adopt the term themselves!

    Consider this another set of marching orders if you must; it is certainly a good idea.

    7. Promoting Justice With/As An Assist To/From False Rape Society; piggybacking off of Zed at The Spearhead

    I think we should reject legal institutions that tolerate even one innocent man going punished – even if that means ten guilty men walk free. Mustn't this be the case, brother?

    8. I'll Believe In Spirituality The Same Way I Believe In Gravity; fighting illogic with logic in The Lady's Lair

    Lady Snow disagrees with The Root Cause (see point 4):

    I think the “root” goes deeper than that. I think at the root of all of this is a SPIRITUAL dysfunction.

    Hey, if you can tell me about a way I can reliably and independently verify spiritual phenomenon much in the same way you can reliably and independently verify scientific phenomenon (need to know if gravity is still working? Grab something and then let it go. Did the object you were holding appear to accelerate towards the center of the earth? If so, congratulations – you just helped build evidence for the theory of gravity!), I’ll be happy to help you prove your theory.

    Until then, however, I’ll remain skeptical.

    9. Meet The New Boss, Same As The Old Boss; inciting criticism and ruining my reputation at The Spearhead

    Crella -

    I feel bad for women like you, because you get it from both sides. You take flak from women for disagreeing with feminism and then you take flak from very angry men for merely being a woman. I'm hoping to change the perceptions and get things more balanced, but ultimately I am one man, and what I say may have very little impact.

    One of the worst things that could happen is we end up replacing the language ideology which idolizes female superiority despite clear scientific evidence with one that idolizes male superiority despite good common sense (and perhaps some more of that clear scientific evidence). Another way of saying this is "meet the new boss; same as the old boss."

    10. The Revolution Will Be Synthesized And All You Have to Do Is Divide By Zero; No Really, I'm Not Kidding (or am I?)

    The Organization of "God"

    Not sure how/if this will be on the Spearhead, so I've unlocked comments.

    First off, Happy Valentine's Day 2010, everyone.

    It is pointless for me to try and assume credit for this idea, because, logically speaking, credit for it will be irrelevant if it actually works. However, if you must know, I feel confident enough in this idea that I will reveal to you all my "secret identity." Some of you may find it ironic (or perhaps not so ironic) that I was once a Baptist, but I do not consider myself personally religious these days. Nevertheless, stories help people understand concepts, hence, the biblical allegories. Adopt this system and it will literally resolve almost any logomachy non-violently. If you accept the premises, you must accept my conclusion.

    Whether or not you want to understand this idea is up to you, whether or not you understand why this is the case. Keep that in mind.

    This "ideology" is non-competitive with other ideologies in the sense that it is designed to persuade, if the possibility of persuasion exists. If not, it seeks to distance itself as far as possible from sources of conflict. Period. It can tolerate multiple copies of itself (ie, a "Christian" grouping, a "Muslim" grouping, and a "Jewish" grouping - different flavors of the same truth) without trying to destroy itself.

    Don't call me John the Baptist just yet. And please. Do not freak out looking for Jesus. "John the Baptist" and "Jesus" are, after all, just "ideas" we use to help us structure our reality - specifically, the part of our reality that understands how societies are made. I believe I have realistically wedded belief with science and the result is mind-expanding.

    Let me get right down to it. When it comes to understanding this post, there are three basic guidelines I'd remind you of:

    1) You must not get lost in the details. If you do not believe in the system, it will not work for you. Period. Belief is like fuel for the engine, here. In other words, you must submit to the system in order for the system to protect you. "God's Plan."

    2) Trust the system, and it will trust you. "Free will."

    3) Belief is synergistic. "Love one another."

    This is a process, which means it occurs in a sequence. You might say, you have to start at Alpha, in order to get to your perfect Omega. In other words, you must be at 0. The good news is, dividing by zero is a valid way to arrive at zero from any input instantaneously. Try it out for yourself if you are not yet at zero.

    If you believe that you are part of the "war" - you will be part of the "war."

    Genesis: In The Beginning, God Made Adam

    When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground- the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    Start at step 0, and go from there.

    A, B, and C obviously represent the three core ideals which would make the theoretically-ideal human. I could tell you what I think the ideals would be, but the whole point of the system is that, given a long enough time frame - it will guarantee the "ideal" traits work themselves out, so it's irrelevant to speculate as to what these traits might end up being. If you do not have enough of any one of these traits, you do not have enough "tools" to begin building "the form." Here's the kicker - all you need is the bare minimum to get started, and then you can start unlocking your P value, or, your maximum potential. Belief provides fuel for this engine. But you don't have to believe me - you just have to believe yourself.

    Here's one advantage to this conceptualization - any group could define these values as they would like to, for the purposes of that group. For example, a nation may say that an ideal citizen would have "respect for life" (A), "respect for liberty" (B), and "respect for the pursuit of happiness" (C). A military force, such as the Marine Corps, may define those values as Honor (A), Courage (B) and Commitment (C). If I were to make my own group (call it the Transcendentalists), I would define A as "human communication skills," B as "belief in oneself" and C as "willingness to act on that belief."

    But now we're starting to break my first guideline - getting lost in the details - because in theory, there exists the literal "perfect" person who can thrive in any context (or group, or nation, or job, or organization...). This does not mean that every person can be the perfect person, but any person may in fact be the perfect person (though the odds of any one person being perfect are, obviously, quite low).

    But Adam Needed Help

    So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, "With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man."

    The ideal grouping for most humans is probably the "nuclear" family - man, woman, and child. I am not advocating that this grouping be structured in any specific way - I am merely saying it is important. Certainly people will take this idea and do stupid things - treating either the man or the woman as subhuman, neglecting the child and all the other "evils" humans are capable of - but just because the premises of an argument form are false (the contents of the family are jacked up), that does not refute the validity of the form (the structure of the family is still valid).

    Try as hard as you might, but it is an (un)fortunate probability of human existence that at some point, you will have to deal with other people. However, it is known that if you find people "like yourself," your odds of getting along are increased. This logical model shows the best way to be compatible with people - be of the same "form" if not necessarily the same "contents." This is like a logical syllogism, where any argument you make using the 8 valid forms is "valid" even if the premises that make up the argument are false - so long as the form is correct, the contents are irrelevant. (Of course, a "sound" argument is both valid and "true," but that's neither here nor there.) And how better to "combine" than to attempt to combine into a form that is representative of all the individuals yet greater than any of them?

    Even though we are now dealing with a group, the concept is the exact same as above - a group can be formed for any number of purposes and be placed into any number of contexts, and in theory, there is the perfect group that can adapt and thrive in any situation. For example, in the Marine Corps, a unit may be formed to serve an Air Wing mission, an Infantry mission, or a Maintenance mission - but there may also be an ideal group structure that could adapt to any of those missions and thrive. A group is not limited to being composed of only three members, but a group cannot be formed (ideally) without three members - and it is entirely possible to have less than ideal group structures (where the total group does not retain the outline of a triangle, or worse still, where you take two triangles to make one shape, an instance of more is less! 1 + 1 = 1).

    The ability to be a "triangle" or ideal form is not determined by such silly factors as race, biological sex, age, or any other external factor. It comes from within.

    What Happens When We Believe In "The Plan"

    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope... "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye..." A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

    This idea is unstoppable if you are a logical person. Spreading it, however, will take work and expertise. Some people will be more capable of others than spreading it, but ultimately that is irrelevant. It will spread - I have already "spread" it to many more people than I would have thought possible, in my private life. Each new person I spread it to makes me believe in the idea more and increases my efficiency in spreading it. Belief is synergistic and contagious.

    I have developed several conceptual models of how to spread this idea, which I will now share with you.

    This is what true, solo "Game" looks like at its most basic, functional components. You have a person who believes in an idea, and that person may be alone, "against a group." But so long as the group has the ability to believe in the idea, using proper technique, it will be possible to convince them of the validity of the idea. Through effective technique, those people will be convinced. The stronger the triangle's belief in his or herself in this context, the larger the halo effect of their belief (modeled by red circle), which is in competition with the combined "halo of belief" of the "opposition." I have modeled someone strong in belief and with good technique, and we can see that three people are at disadvantage against one "true believer." It is, however, possible that you will encounter opposition that refuses to budge in their beliefs, for whatever reason. For all effective purposes, they are incapable of believing in triangle. What to do? Here's the model:

    I made the belief dominance even more obvious in this picture. Here the believer isolates those who can never agree, and engages in one way communication - after all, being "heard" is a privilege, and not a right, furthermore, if you cannot speak the same language (agree on important terms, such as "rape," "marriage," "patriarchy" to name a few) then why bother angering yourself or the other person? Respond as you must to be civil and respectful, but that's about it. Focus on those who you can help, and help them.

    What happens when you "roll three deep in the club," or otherwise go out with your friends and encounter a group of people that may need some convincing? Here's what happens:

    This is even easier than going it alone. After all, the group of believers has the advantage of numbers (1 + 1 + 1 = 5 versus 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. Don't believe me yet? Then you may never. Which is fine! You don't have to believe me.). The tactics are fundamentally the same as when going it alone, though obviously the details will change. But remember the first guideline? You can't get lost in the details. If you understand the concept, the details will handle themselves for you. What happens when you are out-gunned? See below.

    Same tactics apply in the individual setting. Here we have a group strength of five (1 + 1 + 1 = 5) against a combined group strength of three. Here's how three well organized, true "believers" can out gun 17 ineffectually organized non-believers, using math:
    • (1 + 1 + 1 = 5)
    • vs.
    • (1 + 1 + 1 = 1) + (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1) + (1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 = 1) = 3
    • Because 5 > 3, 5 wins.
    This is the power of organizational efficiency fueled by belief. Three "good triangles" can handily and nonviolently deal with seventeen "good (any shape except a triangle)." Do you believe yet?

    The New Face of "Warfare," What Massive Nonviolent Conflict Resolution "Looks Like;" Do You Believe?

    This is what "war" will look like. This is a model for "evolution" too. More on that in a second, actually. In any case, the best part of this is that violence is absolutely unnecessary for this to succeed, except in self-defense. Ideally, we would hope our opposition would not seek violent action against us, but we must be prepared for that grim alternative. This is an idea for which I can live and die - is it an idea for which you can live and die, too?

    And don't worry, brothers (and sisters). Even if I (or anyone else who believes!) should die, the idea will live on:


    I have the details. But it would be a waste of my time to talk about them if you do not believe in the idea. There is no question that this idea works - the only question is how fast it will work and whether you will be a triangle or whether you will be any other shape of your choosing. You do not have to be a triangle, you do not have to play my "game." But I am fairly convinced that my game will be a lot more fun to play (result in synergized happiness and contentment) than any other game. Of course, shitty games come out every day, and people still buy them. And nobody cares about my opinion when it comes to games.

    The only question at this point that truly matters is - do you believe? If you do, just leave a simple comment... "I believe."

    If you are having trouble believing, you may not be at step zero. If that is the case, I have three simple suggestions for you to be able to get to step zero:

    1) Transcend your personal problems. Follow the conceptual process of rage, despair, release, and transcendence when it comes to doing this.

    2) Transcend your organizational (family, job, nation, etc) problems. Follow the conceptual process of rage, despair, release, and transcendence when it comes to doing this.

    3) Figure out how to divide by zero.

    After that, make your own choice - one of those choices could be to believe. I suggest you try it, but remember, you don't have to. Just don't force your beliefs on me. Thanks! Here's what I think the world looks like, by the way:

    12 February 2010

    I just divided by zero.

    This means I may have to stop blogging.

    Maybe not.

    We'll see what happens - the universe still appears to be here!

    10 February 2010

    ATTENTION EVERYONE: JJDURDEN is just here for the traffic, and because he writes he is a rapist.

    Just noticed the comment below in the thread I outlined in this post:

    ATTENTION EVERYONE! JJ DURDEN is just here for blog hits and he writes for The Spearhead (so he’s a rapist and abuser too).

    His blog is a failing shit hole of misogyny and now he has dedicated a post to JUST my comments section here and apparently my many “big lies” and my lack in “intellect”!

    LOL….god he wishes he were in my intellectual league for even one day.

    So, anyway….he’s trolling to get blog info for himself and for the psychos at The Spearhead.

    What? Did they run out of murdered females and abused wives to celebrate?

    Ugh, they are the most low-class humans ALIVE.

    That's right, folks. An attempt to engage a fellow human being in intelligent conversation is, apparently, a lowly attempt to self-promote and gain traffic on a blog I could care less about. Furthermore, writing for the Spearhead automatically makes a person a rapist and an abuser. I remember in "the good old days" when you had to actually have sex with someone to be a rapist - thank goodness the modern era is much more convenient and allows virgins like myself the privilege of raping and abusing people by encoding binary data over an ethernet cable for the digestion of the internet audience!

    I don't remember celebrating any murdered females or abused wives here or at The Spearhead - can anybody quote a post where I did that to jog my memory? If so, I'll gladly turn myself into the brig authorities and serve some jail time.

    At least she said one thing that was factual - men currently ARE the most low-class humans alive. This is an injustice and inequality I hope to help fix!

    As always LR, thanks for the entertainment (mostly through your ad hominems).

    09 February 2010

    For Your Amusement indeed

    Lady Raine has a blog post entitled "For Your Amusement" which is basically a misandrist dig at The Spearhead (which I now write for). I didn't read the entire comment thread because I couldn't be bothered, but I picked up on one of her most recent comments and tried to engage her in intelligent discussion. She demonstrated her true colors immediately. Therefore, I submit my comment (and all the comments that follow, obviously) "for your amusement."

    Here's a fun game to play while following the thread - keep track of all the logical fallacies LR commits, with special attention paid to ad hominems! Aren't we all so glad we decided to let women run the nation?

    30 January 2010

    These words make it all worth it.

    From someone to me, regarding recent events:

    Thank you. The courage you have shown in this endeavor is remarkable. Instead of randomly throwing a pebble in the water, you unleashed a precision guided boulder to which I will enjoy witnessing any resulting tsunamis. No matter what outcomes occur, your intentions were honorable and unselfish and as with all of the other adjectives floating in my head, are demonstrating what everyone strives to be, a leader.

    Words fail me.

    29 January 2010

    My head is spinning

    I just completed the craziest, ballsiest thing I've ever done in my life. I'm glad it's all over.

    24 January 2010

    Communicating Thoughts and Thinking About Communication; The Duality of Reason

    I didn't think to post this on my personal blog, and I'm not about to go through the pain of formatting it for the internet yet again. You can read it here. It's about language and thinking.

    18 January 2010

    New piece coming soon

    I just wrapped up an essay I'd been working on for a philosophical conference, and submitted it over to The Spearhead. I am told it should be up within the next day or so. I wouldn't mind becoming a regular contributor over there, but we shall see. If that becomes the case, I could use this blog to merely talk about video games and the military. Haha!

    ::EDIT:: Here it is.

    15 January 2010

    Another good comment

    I'll get around to generating my own content again shortly (long weekend, competing priorities) but for now, I rather enjoy pointing out good comments on posts that may otherwise go unnoticed.

    The comment is a sort of companion diatribe to this analysis (author's blog) of common "feminist" (I use the term loosely and apply it generally - I accept/acknowledge the hypothetical possibility of an honest to goodness, logical "feminist" even though I haven't met one) debate tactics.


    [EDIT] Kudos award to this comment for presenting a great dilemma to the advocation of a broadening of the definition of rape. Plus, this keeps language narrow and specific, which we all know I'm a fan of.

    And here's some lulz.

    13 January 2010

    Moral of the Story: Get a Vasectomy

    This comment on this post was just too hilarious (and awesome) to let get buried.

    TL;DR summary: guy gets a vasectomy. Three months later, he meets a woman with whom he enjoys a casual relationship. She had other designs, however, and about four months into the relationship she plays the "I am pregnant" game, which our hero indulges with a bit of pleasure (knowing obviously the child is not his). After revealing her to be completely crazy and immoral, he performs an awesome coup-de-grace that leaves her sobbing.

    Comeuppance! Catharsis! Woo.

    10 January 2010

    The Lies We Live With - Independence

    I contend that it is impossible to live an absolutely honest life. We all live with lies (and by this I mean the simplest definition of a lie: "an inaccurate or false statement," whether it is intentional or not). This could be the result of any number of things - indoctrination, propaganda, self-defense, who knows. One of the lies I lived with for a long time was related to my indoctrination into the modern liberal mindset, a process I had very little choice in.

    But I've lived with a variety of other lies. Human memory is faulty, and so we may come to believe things about our past that are untrue. During my exile in Utah, only after deep reflection and a painful confrontation with my past, did I learn that I had convinced myself of an outright falsehood which had fundamentally altered the way I approached relating to other people. How or why this happened, I cannot say for sure.

    This is why my ideal is to strive for ever more honesty; we can never be perfectly honest, I think, but we can try.

    In what is the first of an intended series of posts, I want to take a closer look at the lie of "independence" in the West, particularly among modern liberal (and by this I mean the type discussed in my link above) thinkers. We are all raised to value our independence and we fancy ourselves independent thinkers, workers, citizens, etc. Most people's first taste of "independence" is when they get their first car at the age of 16 (anecdote: I've always relied on mass transit). Independence is valued in our society and enshrined as a sort of virtue.

    Only an extremely small minority of us are independent, however. In fact, most of us have crippling dependencies on "the system" and on society at large. If, overnight, the entire *American infrastructure were to be swept under a rug (the roads, the system of distribution for foodstuffs and water, just to name a few), we would find that most people would quickly die in short order. As a culture, we fancy ourselves as industrious and deserving of our place in the world. When one talks about their hard-won job or hard-earned achievements, they always talk in terms of their struggles inside the system, spending hours and hours studying at the universities or working long nights or whatever the case may be. Their analysis completely ignores the fact that they had a system to work within at all.

    For example, I am absolutely positive that there are people who have been born in less advantaged places in the world who were either equal to me in capacity, or superior. However, I am just as certain that they died well before they reached the age of 21. Why? They lost the "genetic lottery," and that's it. They had the poor misfortune of being born into a terrible part of the world that does not have a grand infrastructure like the United States*. If they did survive, it is because they learned how to be truly independent - how to grow their own food, build their own home, and eek out their own living.

    So, while we fancy ourselves independent, we can think all sorts of absurdities. I was recently talking to someone who expressed that she could never imagine herself "shackled to a man" in a marriage, how this would be absolutely catastrophic to her "independence." She did not think it was fair game or even relevant for me to point out that she was absolutely taking for granted her day to day dependence upon the social system that has been set up for her sustenance. She does not want to be "dependent" upon one man (a husband), when in reality, she is dependent upon countless men (and some women) who pay taxes and work for the state to build and maintain the institutions she uses to survive.

    This thinking is poisonous. We devalue community and cooperation in favor of "independence," but yet again, we're not even talking about "independence." True independence would be off-the-grid living, growing your own crops and perhaps tending to your own herds for sustenance. Such living is often ridiculed as backwards and "crazy." So when people talk about how they're very "independent," what they're probably talking about is how they're very ignorant and very irresponsible. They feel no responsibility to society and see no reason why they should contribute back, and often pursue purely luxurious endeavors - things like art. (Art is great, and I am a fan of it. But it contributes nothing to our survival.)

    Yet another example, methinks, of a thought-terminating cliché or doublespeak. I would love to see all those enlightened, "open-minded" college students (in whom these attitudes seem to be very prevalent) have to do things like build their own schools, pave their own roads, provide for their own defense, make their own budgets, grow their own food, and on and on... They might finally learn what being "independent" is really all about.

    *I mention the US specifically, but these arguments could apply to any civilization. If you do not grow your own food and provide for your own basic sustenance and survival needs (to include defense from hostile aggressors - be they bandits or be they invaders), you are not independent, and in fact you are dependent upon the system to provide a method for you to acquire the things you need to survive. In case you're wondering, I'm entirely dependent. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with being dependent, but there is something wrong with being ignorant about it.

    09 January 2010


    I just finished organizing my blog, somewhat. I've revamped labels and applied applicable labels to every post in the blog, as well as removing redundant ones. If you've a label suggestion for a post, recommend it in the comments - if you've a question as to why something was labeled the way it was, ask in the comments! Check out the sidebar for all the labels I'm using.

    I've also gotten rid of any references to my actual name and cleaned up some posts that had too much jargon which made them hard to read.

    Next step to organizing: have a "most important" posts sort of column, perhaps for the major labels, ala Female Misogynist's blog.

    Video Games and the Suspension of Disbelief


    First off, I've been rather stressed out lately. I haven't been writing here as much as I'd like to, probably because I am not in optimal condition to digest and interpret matters which I take rather seriously. Therefore, I'm going to take a break (even if for but a post) from major examinations of philosophy and society to talk about something that I usually derive great pleasure from: video games.

    This is not a post that will attempt to establish that video games are art. I am no expert when it comes to art, and I am not the sort that could attempt to establish and support such a thesis. I have a pretty liberal idea of what constitutes "art" in any case, and my line of thinking is similar to this quote from Man on Fire: "A man can be an artist... in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasey's art is death. He's about to paint his masterpiece." To me, video games can be art, there is an art to warfare ("The Art of War"), writing is an art form, and so on.

    Generally, there is not nearly so much controversy when one asserts that writing/literature is art, and I am going to apply the idea of "suspension of disbelief" to a discussion about video games. I once fancied myself a writer and wanted to pursue being a novelist, so I understand more about the art of writing than I do about other art forms. I've also been playing video games for years and years, so combining ideas from both seems rather natural.

    The main thesis is that once that suspension of disbelief is broken, a gamer stops playing a game - much like a reader would stop reading a book.

    Initial Concerns - Interface

    I believe it is fair to boil down the idea of "suspension of disbelief" in literature to the idea that the reader must buy into the writer's world, that even though the reader knows what's going on is fiction, they choose to suspend their disbelief and behave as though what they were reading was not fiction, to get into the mood. This can be achieved in a variety of ways, and it does not necessarily mean a writer need be overly concerned with realism or describing the mechanics of their fictional (and sometimes fantastic) universes; but if a reader will not suspend their disbelief, it is unlikely they will continue reading. Therefore, it's a critical concern. When it comes to a video game and for the purpose of my analysis, "suspension of disbelief" refers to the gamer's willingness to continue playing a video game despite objections the gamer may have to the various stages of game play - from interface, to mechanics, to immersion.

    Video games are a unique medium with a unique interface. Generally, one needn't worry about interface concerns when it comes to writing - we are all very used to interfacing with books and the written word. Not many surprises there - black ink on white paper, read from left to right and top to bottom, usually in book form...you get the idea. With a video game, however, we don't interface this way, even though the ability to read may be crucial to enjoying the game. There are many other factors, and the interface may be a big enough hurdle that some people give up before they've even began playing (stereotypical example: old people).

    I agree with a lot of what David Sirlin has to say about interface. Here's a quote from one of his interviews (responding to why he thinks designers make a lot of mistakes with interface):

    I think there are many reasons that all contribute to that. One of them is that game designers like to think about system or story―big ideas. And that [interface] is not big ideas. It’s mundane and boring and not sexy to care about. And yet you can end up with this great story that’s written in children’s handwriting. It’s ridiculous. It’s that extra level of polish that we as an industry need to care about more.

    Sometimes, however, bad interface choices are defended by fans of certain games, claiming that they add elements of "tension" or "excitement" to the game. One example is with Resident Evil 5, where you can't pause the game to manage your inventory and you only get a limited number of spaces. Fans claim this creates tension in a firefight. This is analogous to claiming that using an illegible or cryptic font style in a novel adds tension to a fight scene. Why would you ever think it is a good idea to make it harder to interface with your product? Stellar ideas are the ones that are easily accessed and still brilliant, not ones that are hidden away under layers of bad interface choices.

    However, interface is certainly a matter of "suspension of disbelief." Different people have different tolerances when it comes to clunky interface design, and may choose to play a game with frustrating controls so long as the game has something else to offer - is lots of fun, deeply engaging, tells a great story, whatever the case may be. Having a good interface is never a bad thing, but having a poor interface isn't necessarily deal breaking either. It contributes overall to the suspension of disbelief, and interface ranks at different levels of importance for different gamers.

    Intermediate Concerns - Mechanics

    One of the earliest reasons, I would argue, that games ever caught on in the first place is that people found them to be a lot of fun. This is primarily due to game mechanics - a great game design that is executed well. This is a meaty subject that fuels a lot of thinking and debating, and is usually the major topic of concern for those who talk about "game design." You'll see Sirlin talk about mechanics all the time. Mechanics factor into suspension of disbelief insofar as one may give up playing a game if one does not like the mechanics of that game. Like interface, objections over mechanics may not yet be enough to break a gamer's suspension of disbelief - particularly in games that are more about immersion. This is more true of seasoned gamers than it is newbies, who may have bowed out already at the interface stage. (The analogy to literature holds true, still - an early reader, such as a middle schooler, is not going to want to read War and Peace, despite any literary merit it has. The early reader hasn't mastered the interface in the same way an adult reader may have - such as having a large enough vocabulary or long enough attention span - and may be more prone to appreciating style rather than substance.)

    If I ever got into reviewing video games, I would forego the conventional wisdom that arbitrarily assigns scores to arbitrary facets of a game (look at any game review site and you'll likely find this breakdown: Graphics - 9, Sound - 8, Story - 7, Gameplay - 10, Tilt - 7 Overall 8...just for example) and instead focus solely on interface, mechanics and immersion. Assigning arbitrary scores here would not make much sense either, and I would talk merely about the things done correctly or incorrectly in each of these categories, perhaps suggesting how much time one could expect to spend with a game (while acknowledging that ten hours spent with one game may be more fulfilling than one hundred with another, for various reasons)...but I'm getting off topic.

    Mechanics basically boils down to concern over whether or not the game is pleasurable to play. Is there enough challenge, and is the game challenging in a way that is fair or in a way that is cheap? If it is strategy focused, does it have depth and allow for creative use of game assets, or is it shallow and affords the player only canned strategies? If it's about action, is it fast and furious or light and, well, boring? Again, there are a ton of things that factor into game mechanics, and no game will ever have the perfect formula (I define the perfect formula as being one that succeeds so brilliantly you would never need to play any other game ever again - and furthermore, all people would agree that it is the perfect game). There is the possibility that you may find the perfect game for you, but I highly doubt it. I thought I had found such games, but I also found that after a significant investment of time, I eventually grew bored and turned to other games.

    Certain genres of video games are designed to rely on mechanics more than are other video games. Examples would include action games, fighting games, or platforming games. People don't generally play these games because they tell a great story or otherwise immerse a player in a fantastic game world (escapism). People generally play these games because they are fun to play, because the game mechanics are smartly designed and satisfying to learn. Interface is usually important in primarily mechanical games, though not necessarily so - some interfaces are hard to learn initially but can be wielded with impunity after a certain amount of investment, at which point the mechanics can shine through. Likewise, immersive factors can be ignored - a game that initially looks or sounds 'ugly' will still attract a large audience if the mechanics are highly refined.

    Advanced Concerns - Immersion

    As games have evolved, so too have their reasons for being played. It is hard to call any 8-bit game a pleasure to visually behold, but nowadays, games can be very visually enticing. In about two decades, games went from the visuals offered in the first picture (left) to the visuals offered in the second (below, right). This is from the same series of video games (Final Fantasy I and Final Fantasy XIII, for the non gaming audience - an in depth analysis tracking the growth of this series can be found here) depicting the same mechanics (a battle sequence). Even the first screenshot is worlds ahead of the earliest video games, especially in the same genre - some were purely text-based adventures akin to a "choose your own adventure" novel! Visuals are just one area where games have improved, however. Increased technology has allowed for better visuals, more realistic sounds and more memory (allowing for things like, initially, more text, and later, more video and audio data storage - all contributing factors to 'better stories'). The "old guard" of video game reviewers have understood that people like shiny things, and thus given consideration to the artistic and technical merits of graphics. They've considered the artistic and technical merits of a video game's sound-scape, and even discussed the artistic and technical merits of a game's story. No large game review outlet that I have seen has successfully weaved these seemingly disparate elements together into a single cohesive theory, however. I doubt very much that a person will play a game for very long that is merely very pretty but has no other merits, or merely sounds very good without any other merits, or has a great story without any other merits. The reason all of the things discussed in this paragraph matter is because they all contribute to a game's immersion.

    For this discussion, however, a game's immersion is a high-level factor of consideration for a gamer's suspension of disbelief. It is possible that a gamer may play a game that is hard to control (poor interface), and not very fun (poor mechanics) if the game is superbly immersive. Some games get by on their immersion alone, offering convoluted or clunky interfaces and stale mechanics but satiating a gamer's desire to escape to another realm (see also: World of Warcraft).

    To a certain extent, a game must pass a gamer's bare minimum for interface and mechanical checks - if an interface is simply too cumbersome or mechanics are simply too boring or disengaging, a gamer isn't going to stick around to get immersed - no matter how beautiful the graphics, how fitting the music or how wonderfully penned and executed the story. Furthermore, some gamers plain won't give a shit about the immersion at all! Then there are the types of gamers who may be able to forgive poor interface and poor mechanics, but who won't be able to be immersed in a game which is of a genre they dislike. For example, I think Braid is an amazingly well designed game, but if a gamer does not enjoy platforming or puzzle games, it is unlikely they will be able to play and appreciate Braid. (More on Braid later - Braid was originally going to be the subject of this post, but I thought a more general discussion of video games would serve me well here).


    I am a fan of trying to communicate and explain things in ways that people can understand. The goal here was to communicate my thoughts on why people play games and why they may bow out of the process at various stages. It all starts with interface and whether or not a person will agree to play the game, basically. After that, the next hurdle is mechanical - is the game fun or otherwise enjoyable to play? If a game succeeds brilliantly on its mechanics alone, that may be enough to keep gamers coming back for more. If not, the game needs to be immersive - it needs to draw the gamer in and keep them coming back in order to be a part of a fully realized alternative game world.

    I hope this was not a complete waste of time for either the non-gaming or gaming members of my reading audience. Expect a post on Braid next.

    05 January 2010

    It's all fun and games, until you break your nose

    Yesterday, my nose was broken for the first time. Here's how it happened.


    Cpl Whiskey was scheduled to run a martial arts course with the intention of training Marines who currently hold a Grey Belt in MCMAP up to Green Belt proficiency. At the end of this course, we were to test out with an actual Martial Arts Instructor to be awarded our new belts. I was part of this course along with about a dozen other Marines. Yesterday was the first day of training.

    Cpl Whiskey had duty in the barracks, meaning he could not be there when we commenced at 0630. That being the case, Sgt Bravo was there instead. We started the day off with calisthenics - albeit in our camouflage uniform with boots and "flak" vests on (so not ideal running gear). After warming up with a half-mile jog, we did a circuit course of Sgt Bravo's design. We had cones set up to designate certain "stations," if you will. The cones were set up in a rectangular fashion, and I'd say the short sides were about 20 yards apart and the long sides about 40 yards apart. We started by sprinting the 40 yard length, then doing twenty push ups. We sprinted diagonally (so, slightly more than 40 yards) to another cone where we did 20 "4-count mountain climbers." (Mountain climbers are an exercise where you get into push up position, and alternate bringing your knees up to your elbows. Starting with your left leg, when your left knee comes up near your left elbow, that is 1 count. On the next count, you kick your left leg straight and cock your right leg up, so the right knee is near your right elbow. That's the 2nd count. On the third count, you kick your right leg and cock your left leg. On the fourth count, you kick your left leg and cock your right leg - that is one "4-count" mountain climber.) After the mountain climbers, we sprinted the 40 yards and did twenty more push ups, then sprinted the other diagonal and did another set of 20 4-count mountain climbers to complete the circuit.

    We ran 4 circuits in total before getting a five minute break to catch our breath and get some water. (Note: Sgt Bravo did the circuits with us, in case anyone was wondering.) During this time, Sgt Bravo rearranged the cones into a tighter circular pattern (and added a few more cones). He explained the stations each cone represented and how we would move from station to station. We would move from the first station by low crawling ("belly on the deck" at all times), from the second station by high crawling (hands and knees), and the third station by bear crawling (hands and feet); then the cycle would repeat. Our first station exercise was 15 8-count body builders (1st count is to go from standing to crouching with your palms on the deck, 2nd count is to kick your legs behind you and be in push up position, 3rd count is to kick your legs out and have them spread wide, 4th count is to kick them back in to push up position, 5th count is to go down as when you are doing a push up, 6th count is to push back up, 7th count is to kick your legs back up so you're nearly in the crouching position from the 1st count, and the 8th count is to stand up). The second station was to do 15 4-count dying cockroaches (sit on the ground with your legs off the deck and your knees bent in to your chest. 1st count is to shoot your legs out, 2nd count is to bring them back to a bend, 3rd is to shoot them out, and 4th is to bring them back in). The third station was 15 "Marine Corps" push ups (Marine Corps push ups are simply push ups done on a 4 count, so 15 Marine Corps push ups is pretty much just 30 push ups). The fourth station was 15 air squats. The fifth station was 15 diamond push ups. The sixth station was 15 "scissor jacks" (an exercise where you perform a lunge, but instead of stepping each time, you jump into position each time). The seventh station was 15 "dive-bomber" push ups (a sort of push up that involves a snaking motion - hard to explain). The eigth station was 15 sit ups. Then we went back to the starting station and finished off with 15 more 8-count body builders.

    After we completed this (all told we spent about an hour to do everything I wrote up) we went over to the gym. From here we reviewed martial arts techniques from the lowest level of proficiency - the Tan Belt. Things like stances, angles of movement, upper and lower body strikes, chokes, throws and takedowns. We did this for about two hours until Cpl Whiskey showed up. Once he showed up we reviewed a few more techniques until we put on boxing gloves and face protection and did some light sparring (body shots only). Each Marine sparred for 4 minutes (broken up into 2 minute rounds), and for those of you who've never been in a fight or anything like it, 2 minutes can feel like an awful long time. I took a couple of shots to the bladder I would describe as "less than fun" to receive. After the sparring we went back to reviewing more techniques and learned two maneuvers from the Green Belt syllabus (I'd already seen these moves before from another Green Belt course I'd been on - perhaps a story for another time).

    How It Happened

    After learning the new techniques and taking a break, Sgt Bravo informed us we were to do some ground sparring (sometimes called "grappling"). As always, proper safety protocols were in place - Marines would stay on their knees at all times, tap-out procedures applied, strikes were prohibited, no eye gouges or small joint manipulations (IE, don't grab another Marine's finger and try to tweak it to get them to submit). The format was to be "bull in the ring," meaning each Marine would take turns being in the middle of a circle and would have to face up to three opponents in 1-minute rounds apiece (so 3 minutes total of grappling). If the "bull" caused an opponent to submit, that opponent would become the new bull. If the opponent caused the bull to submit, time was paused while the fighters reset and then the match continued. I volunteered to go first.

    I was outmatched in by my first two opponents - both being stronger and having better technique than me. Between the two of them I think I submitted three times. (Hey, it happens.) I had a few close calls where I nearly caused them to submit, but I wasn't able to sink the chokes in fully and they were able to muscle their way out of them. My third opponent was outmatched by me - had I taken him on "fresh" it would have been an easy fight. As it was, I was fairly tired from the previous two bouts and had reduced capacity to muscle him around.

    At one point he had me in his "guard." What this means is, his back was on the ground and his legs were wrapped around my waist. Doing this allows you to control your opponent, since you can use your legs to bring him in close and you can also push him away if you want. There are techniques available from the guard that end in armbars or chokes as well. There are techniques to escape the guard, too. I used one such technique, which ends with me tossing my opponent using his leg so that he had his stomach on the ground and back exposed to me - a very "dangerous" situation for him. I was going to "move in for the kill" when, in a panic, my opponent twisted his body very quickly and accidentally struck me square in the nose with his elbow. Such a rapid twist of the body generates a lot of power and my nose was instantly shattered.


    At the moment of impact, however, I just thought I'd taken "a good one." I was about to resume fighting when I noticed everything had stopped - my opponent wasn't struggling against me, there wasn't any conversation going on from the spectators. I touched my hand to my nose and looked at my hand, which was covered in blood. "Oh," I thought. "That explains it." I didn't really feel any pain but I excused myself to go to the restroom to take care of my nose and stop the bleeding. Cpl Whiskey was right behind me and asked me if I thought my nose was broken. "No," I replied. I'd never had a broken nose before but I'd imagined breaking it would be a lot more painful than what was going on right then.

    I was losing a lot of blood. That, combined with the physical exertion of the day (4 hours, all said and done) and zero food intake for the day was quickly sapping me of energy. Cpl Whiskey told me to look in the mirror, as my nose was "definitely" broken (I didn't believe him). When I checked, my nose was like a diagonal line across my face instead of a vertical one. "Oh," I said. "I guess you're right." He asked if I had ever had a broken nose or popped one back into place before. "No," I replied. And then I took my hand and tried to pop it back into place. At the time, I noticed that my nose felt like it was in pieces, but the import of this observation escaped me until much later, when I thought back over the whole incident. I was more focused on trying to stop the bleeding.

    After the bleeding calmed down (but did not stop completely), Cpl Whiskey took me to the medical clinic where eventually a commissioned officer saw me. He explained that my options were to try to reset the nose myself, have him attempt to, or go up to the hospital and have them see what they could do. I was more interested in immediate aid, since the longer it took to have the nose worked on, the more "set" it would be and likely the more painful it would be to try to reset it (or so I figured). So, the doctor stood behind me while I sat in a chair, and put my nose in a sort of vise grip between his palms. There was a lot of cracking and popping and squeemish grunts from the onlookers (Cpl Whiskey couldn't watch). We stood up to go inspect the results in a mirror, as he told me it wasn't quite straight. I investigated and agreed - it was now in a sort of ">" shape, almost like a lightning bolt. As he spoke to me, I began to white out - too much blood loss, not enough replenishment. I told him I needed to sit down.

    He had me take a break for a few minutes and then he came in again and told me he could try again if I'd like. He said he hadn't gone full force, so I told him to do so. This time the adjustment was painful, and my nose began bleeding profusely like when it was first injured. I inspect in the mirror again and it's slightly better but still crooked. Satisfied that we had done all we could, I figured that was the end of my visit to the clinic and the best I could hope for regarding my nose. I mentally adapted to having the extra "character" in my face.

    The doc ordered me up some opiate-derivative painkillers and also had my vitals taken and ordered x-rays to be done. He mandated I take 14 days of light duty - no more physical training for two weeks, basically - and also scheduled me for an appointment at the Naval Hospital north of my Camp on Wednesday (tomorrow). He explained that either they would drug me out of my mind, rebreak my nose and try to reset it again, or look into surgery.

    Seems like an awful waste of taxpayer dollars for what basically amounts to cosmetic surgery, but oh well. Perhaps they're worried that leaving my nose as is will lead to long term breathing or sinus complications. I hope so. I'd hate to be receiving cosmetic surgery.


    For those wondering, I did not get the rest of the day "off" from work. Not that I was able to accomplish much, drained of energy and drugged up on near-opiates as I was. I didn't even get to rest when I got home - we had "field day" which amounts to "clean your room to white-glove inspection standard" so I didn't get to go to sleep until about 10 PM (my adventurous day began around 6 AM). Today, I decided to forego the pain killers and deal with the headache and sensitivity so I could actually accomplish things at work.

    Anecdotally, the MCMAP course was cancelled. This was less due to the fact that I was injured and more due to the fact that Cpl Whiskey and Sgt Bravo had never received approval to run such a course, as neither were Martial Arts Instructor (MAIs). MAIs are required for any sort of "combat simulation" activity, such as boxing, ground fighting, pugil stick bouts and so on. Non-MAIs with advanced belt levels (brown and beyond, like Cpl Whiskey and Sgt Bravo) can and are encouraged to lead "sustainment" training, which is basically review of the various techniques in MCMAP.

    Furthermore, I was tickled during an e-mail conversation when someone tried to excuse possible slip-ups due to having too much coffee. I tried to excuse excessive abrasiveness due to receiving a gale-force elbow that shattered my nose and required three resets that still couldn't straighten it out. Sometimes I enjoy being contrary and rude.

    Not equipped

    I just found out the hard way that I am not equipped to handle so much disappointment so fast and so frequently. Blogger's replaced flesh and blood as my confidant, so it's the first and last to hear of such talk.

    More substantive post on an entirely different topic incoming soon.

    03 January 2010

    Communication Loss - Loose Lips Sink Ships

    There's an old saying in the military that "loose lips sink ships." This is a reference to operational security, in that gossiping to people carelessly about the location of your unit or your deployment plans could start a chain of gossip that eventually falls into enemy hands and compromises missions.

    I think loose language can "sink ships" too, by which I mean to say that careless language can have catastrophic consequence. The catalyst for writing this post was the musings of one blogger who likened Plato and Socrates unto poets (actually, in her words, "Plato and Socrates WERE poets"), despite admitting to having never read either of them.

    In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively minor misuse of language with little consequence. Sometimes it is fun to make metaphors and explore them, though the responsible thing to do would be to assert your metaphors as such, rather than as facts. (It is one thing to say that Plato and Socrates were poets, metaphorically speaking, and quite another to say that they were poets and leave it at that.) However, I believe this is representative of a modern tendency to expand the meanings of words with vagaries that bog everyone down with needless communication loss. Nuance and ambiguity have their applications and value in certain arenas (literature, poems, "art") but the increasing intrusions of such sensibilities into everyday language and more mundane pursuits (such as science, debate, and politics) is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst.

    I'll give an example to illustrate my point.


    Imagine, if you will, a good natured, attractive and popular girl in high school who is genuinely kind to everyone. (Yes, this is a hypothetical situation.) She often tosses around the phrase "I love you" or any variation thereof ("love ya," "lots of love," so on and so forth). Suppose she sees a boy sitting by himself at lunch, and emboldened by her noble spirit, deigns to sit with him and have a chat, as she feels it is wrong for someone to eat lunch by themselves. Suppose also this boy is known to be something of a pariah, not the sort popular people should be seen with - this does not deter our young heroine. Once the lunch period breaks after a pleasant conversation that seems to have cheered the boy's mood considerably, she departs, finishing the conversation with her ritual employment of the "I love you" phrase. This creates a wellspring of emotion in the boy, who understands love as a very serious concept shared only by very important people. He tries to actively pursue this girl, perhaps coming off as creepy, and only after several months figures out that she did not mean the word "love" in the same way as he understood it, and winds up dejected and heartbroken as a result.

    Who is at fault here? Should we be angry with the girl for her careless use of language, or should we attribute culpability to the boy who should have known better? Before we start playing the blame game, maybe it would be informative to look up the word "love" in a dictionary. I propose we use dictionary.com, as it is a freely available web dictionary which many people probably use to try and get a clearer sense of what a word means. Here's what dictionary.com has to say about love:

    love  [luhv] Show IPA noun, verb, loved, lov⋅ing.
    1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
    2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
    3. sexual passion or desire.
    4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
    5. (used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, love?
    6. a love affair; an intensely amorous incident; amour.
    7. sexual intercourse; copulation.
    8. (initial capital letter) a personification of sexual affection, as Eros or Cupid.
    9. affectionate concern for the well-being of others: the love of one's neighbor.
    10. strong predilection, enthusiasm, or liking for anything: her love of books.
    11. the object or thing so liked: The theater was her great love.
    12. the benevolent affection of God for His creatures, or the reverent affection due from them to God.
    13. Chiefly Tennis. a score of zero; nothing.
    14. a word formerly used in communications to represent the letter L.

    Clear as mud! There's obviously some non-sequitur definitions here, but there's also a lot of room for personal interpretation. Definitions 5, 9, and perhaps 2 might support the girl's interpretations and defend her from blame, whereas definitions 1, 4, and 6 lend themselves to the boy's interpretation. Moreover, the preponderance of definitions that deal with sexual matters lend credibility to an interpretation of "love" more serious than the one understood by the girl, giving more favor to the boy. But before we go around blaming people for the nasty feelings and disappointment the boy wound up with, let me change the scenario just a hair.


    Imagine the scenario is exactly the same as before. The girl and boy still have all the same qualities, to include the girl's motivation for engaging the boy in conversation. Suppose now that the only difference in the situation is that, through the course of conversation, the girl feels a deep and profound emotional connection to the boy. She begins to see him in a new light, and she thinks that she might be falling for him. When the lunch bell rings and they have to part ways, she has only a small window of opportunity to express her epiphany, and she expresses to the boy "I love you." Later, the boy carefully considers the situation and perhaps even looks up the word "love" to help guide his actions. He knows that she is given to using the word "love" rather freely, and he is hesitant to emotionally invest himself in a prospect that seems likely to end in disappointment. He therefore concludes that she meant "love" in a less profound way (more like definition 9, say) - after all, she was probably just taking pity on him for sitting alone and was being a good Samaritan, love they neighbor and all that. The girl is anguished over the boy's seeming rejection and complete indifference to her profound expression of her deepest feelings and now feels similar levels of disappointment and dejection as our boy had felt in the previous scenario.


    If you haven't figured it out yet, it's kind of a trick question. Neither the boy nor the girl is at fault nor responsible for the miscommunication and resultant emotional harm caused, in either scenario. Sure, perhaps we could chide them for not being "more clear" or not "elaborating" more, but life is rarely perfect and there are times where we only get one shot at phrasing something. Perhaps I could have concocted a more compelling situation to convince you of the "one-shot" angle, but that's ultimately irrelevant to my main point. My main point is that our language has become too vague, and there are, often, far too many different definitions for the same word. Simple math will tell you that as you increase the number of disparate definitions for the same word, you increase the odds that the speaker and listener of any conversation will have different operating definitions of that word.

    What do I mean by operating definitions? I contend that people are not dictionaries, and they do not walk around carrying seven different definitions for the same word in their head - at least not for every single word that has multiple definitions. In general, it is more natural for a person to pick one definition and stick to it - though they may be aware to varying degrees of competing definitions. There may be cases where they are totally unaware of the different definitions a word has. In any case, the operating definition a person has is their assumed definition - the one they use when they either speak or hear the word.

    In scenario 1, the girl's operating definition of the word "love" was, we'll say, definition/meaning 9 provided above. The boy's operating definition was, we'll say, definition/meaning 4. It is natural to assume, when conversing with another person, they understand the definitions of the words that we use - especially very common words, like "love." When the girl used her operating definition, she meant to convey meaning 4, and assumed that the boy received meaning 4. What actually happened was that the boy received meaning 9, because he had a different operating definition of the same word. Meaning 4 and meaning 9 are different enough that, at one point in time, they used to be separate words. Instead of saying love when we meant meaning 9, we might say something like "I like you" or "I care about you."

    The only change in scenario 2 is that the operating definitions are reversed, more or less (to get real technical, the boy didn't have an operating definition, perhaps because he was cognizant of the disparate definitions available to the word love, and reasoned his way to definition 4). Sometimes we get the opportunity to work out miscommunication that results from different operating definitions of the same word - questions like "what do you mean by that?" provide an opportunity to clarify what's really going on in a conversation. But it is naive to assume that we always have this luxury, and especially in the high-pace arena of politics and public debate, rarely is time spent working out the definitions of important words under discussion. (See this post for an example of some slippery words. Other ones off the top of my head: communism, socialism, feminism, Marxism, universal health care... there's probably others, but I don't watch the news overmuch because I easily get peeved at careless use of language.) Miscommunication that would be relatively harmless in the private sphere suddenly becomes a matter of national import and grave concern.

    Perhaps you think I am exaggerating? I think "feminism" more than proves my point. Most people have an operating definition of feminism as being a movement that is concerned chiefly with "equal rights for equal work," (operating definition A) but that is a far cry from what feminism actually is. Some critics, who are familiar with what feminism actually is (operating definition B), decry it. Their message is often dead on arrival, however, because most people assume that operating definition A is what is under assault when they hear the word "feminism." This doesn't even account for the slipperiness of operating definition A (any time I hear the word "equal" in the context of political discourse, I become wary) either.


    I see two possible solutions. Perhaps this means I am stuck in a fallacious way of thinking (the false dilemma), who knows. In any case, the first option is to have all of the dictionaries of the world revised overnight to remove ambiguities from every definition, and to ensure that each and every word means only one thing. The second option would be to have the speaker of the word clarify before transmitting their message precisely what operation definition they are using. "I love you" becomes something like "I love you...by which I mean to say like a neighbor." Alternative options may exist on some kind of gradient between the two, and allowing for the listener to ask for clarification when possible.

    I believe the most sensible and practical approach is to hold the speaker more accountable for misuse of language or vagaries. The speaker has more opportunity to clarify intent before speaking than the listener often has opportunity to clarify after something has been spoken. This is especially the case in one way communications - things like emails from your boss that you cannot respond to. In two way communication, things can be more efficient and productive if the speaker exercises caution and carefully considers what words are employed, clarifying murkiness as it comes up. For example: "I think that feminism - by which I mean the virulent brand promulgated by..."

    Nobody can be perfect, and I know I am not. But we can all strive to be better speakers and be more mindful of what we say before we say it. Creating ambiguity and nuance is great when we're writing literature or poems.

    But, as I hinted at when I started this post, we're not all poets. Intentionally inflating the definition of "poet" (for example) to include everyone (such as people who do not compose poetry) represents a behavior that is antithetical to the way I approach communication.