Logic’s Last Stand

July 15, 2010

Some Things Change

Filed under: Computers, Gaming, Life, Movies, Music, Philosophy — Zurahn @ 7:31 pm

For a long time now I’ve felt like a living contradiction. Everything I used to think about myself has been inverted, and everything I currently think about myself include both ends of the spectrum. Brilliance and idiocy, joyful and sorrowful, sincere and flippant, superior and inferior. There have been some constants, but those appear to be dying.

The latest to fall is probably for the best. I’ve played up my own negativity on things, as I do tend to focus on what the problems are. I think it plays into programming, as handling exceptions is necessary, so picking apart the little things is part of the job. But in a general sense, I’m so sick of the negativity.

It’s one of the best things we had going for us for a long time at The VG Press — the criticisms may have been legitimate when we had them, but they were in good humour. Yet, nowhere’s perfect; here and moreso the Internet at large is creating a great big bastion of hate. I’ll mention up-front that I’m not referring to factual matters; those who, for example, rally against vaccination are doing enormous harm and deserve to be vehemently shot down. It’s the realm of significant subjectivity. It doesn’t have to be videogames and it doesn’t have to be personal; any area where there’s room for reasonable disagreement, there are plenty to take it as an absolutist position.

If there’s a criticism, it’s not enough to just bring it up in the appropriate context, or if as a reaction, to expand on it. With anything and everything, there are some to try to ruin it for everyone else. It also gets worse, as it does spread to personal attacks by relation. Those who support X are amateurish, or any number of other insults for no other reason than a difference of opinion.

So I’m done. Keep it to yourselves, I don’t want it destroying me from the inside out. If you want to berate people for playing “casual” games, or PHP developers as not real programmers, or country music fans as hicks or any other selfish, outwardly hateful, spiteful and utterly immature positions, that’s your prerogative, but you’re not going to ruin it for the rest of us. You’re not going to ruin it for me.


May 20, 2010

Passion is Overrated

Filed under: Computers, Gaming, Life, Philosophy — Tags: , , — Zurahn @ 8:30 pm

Lately I’ve been thinking more about myself in terms of how I approach my interests. For varying reasons, my gaming has become more and more sporadic, and have been finding myself in a consistent mood for JRPGs. I may not find them the most well executed games most often, but they’ve been the most enjoyable for what I’ve been looking for.

On the daily life side of things, programming has been something I do because I like the way I’m able to create with it, and how I’m able to solve problems. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes from, say, adding a new feature to The VG Press, or cutting a two hour job down to a two minute one with a clever script.

SteelAttack sparked the thoughts with this post,

SteelAttack said:

What pains me to an extent is watching people like you guys, who I have grown to care about and appreciate, get somewhat worked up because of statements like these, giving them credence when they don’t deserve it, and generally considering them journalists just because they happen to write about games.

By focusing on the conviction of our responses, it highlighted how little conviction I really had. Videogames, more than ever, have become a source of relaxation. I’ve come to have more passion about the community than the games, because that’s where the energy is.

In programming, there is a consistent theme of how programmers have to be passionate about their trade. If you’re not passionate about programming, you need to get out of the field! It’s no an uncommon train of thought, that it has to be your world to succeed.

Simply put, though, I don’t want passion. I’ve had problems with stress for a long time. Pressure situations, though I don’t think it translates to outward appearance, are too much. I burned out on chess in the same way, and simply put, it doesn’t make you any better. You can have all the passion in the world for programming and still be a lousy employee; you can love games more than anyone and still be miserable to be around; you can dedicate your life to one cause and get absolutely no where.

Giving an honest effort, certainly. But I find I’m doing just fine with laid back old me. I don’t think I have many detractors at The VG Press, I can still be as happy as ever playing Sakura Wars, and I seem to be getting pretty consistent praise at work for doing what I considered par the course. Passion? I passionately deny it.

May 15, 2010

Children Aren’t Your Props

Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 10:28 pm

In an e-mail exchange with Ryan Tate of Valleywag, Steve Jobs repeatedly referred to Apple’s platforms as providing freedom. “Freedom from programs that steal your private data,” he says, “Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yup, freedom.”

Freedom is not from it is of. Freedom of expression, not from it. But that’s not what I’m writing about. Tate’s response included the line, “Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.” Jobs added in a later e-mail,

“And you might care more about porn when you have kids…”

I have simply had enough of the world’s Helen Lovejoy complex. In school, teachers loved to use the word respect. How we should all have respect. I never could quite get a handle on what they meant exactly, but I can tell you this: it’s about time the world’s children were treated with some.

Children aren’t so frail as to be driven to delinquency by seeing a breast. They aren’t so mindless as to be turned into serial killers by playing a videogame. They aren’t so ignorant not to deserve the truth. And they aren’t so worthless as to be used for the sake of pushing a political agenda.

They aren’t your pets and they aren’t your props. Argue all you want about what causes harm, but include yourselves. We’re all people, and quit trying to pretend otherwise.

February 15, 2010

Perhaps I Was Wrong

Filed under: Life, Philosophy — Tags: , , , , — Zurahn @ 12:18 am

Just this once.

Back in grade school, I had a teacher who listed out human needs. Water, air, food, shelter, and companionship. That last one struck me; his demonstration was to stick an obnoxious student who thrives on attention in the hall to see if he tries to get noticed; needless to say I wasn’t convinced.

I’ll need to give you some backstory on myself. You could say I never was particularly normal — the high-point of my social life was before my family moved cities…when I was six. Since then, it’s been a rather linear progression as I further and further drifted from relating to others. I’ve tried to see where I fit, and frankly I don’t. Not to say that’s good or bad or anyone’s fault, it just is. So long ago, earlier than you would expect, I’ve had the understanding that I would live my life primarily alone, and have been mentally preparing myself as such.

It was never perfect; I had always wanted, at the least, just one person to completely relate to and for it to be mutual. That said, after spending a year working in a call centre, when I finally left, it was gone. Dead. I whole-heartedly enjoyed being alone following that, and it scared me. It was like living in a shell. Over time, I’ve been able to revive some feeling inside, yet it manages to confuse things all the more. A curious little curse that is, feel nothing or feel pain.

At any rate, that leads me to today. Essentially the only time I have human interaction face-to-face is once a week when I have lab work at University with a partner. As stupid as it is, and despite my failed efforts to understand it, I walk out of the class feeling better than I have in years. A short-lived high, but it’s helps for a day.

And that brings us back around to those needs. Water, air, food, shelter. Companionship. I thought I could do this alone, and I’ve been trying for years, but something’s got to give. I’m not healthy right now, at least, not by any fair definition — a healthy person does not feel like this — and it only progresses. Problem is, that doesn’t change who I am or anyone else is. Society around here relates drinking with fun, and the only people who don’t drink are either recovering alcoholics or deeply religious. Kinda puts the atheist non-drinker out. Of course, it’s entirely possible to get along with people very different than myself, I tend to get along with a majority of people, but I’ve found that’s limiting, for lack of a better term.

I am who I am, and I put my integrity first and foremost, so certain things will never change. I also don’t particularly think my evaluation of a life alone is wrong, either. I’m just not so sure that list of needs was off-base.

November 19, 2009

Pseudo-Intellectualism and Equivocation

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , — Zurahn @ 7:38 pm

I like to argue, or at the very least, I gravitate toward it. One area that I’ve long held issue is religion for the directly identifiable harm caused by misinformation and poor critical thinking, but there’s a bigger, overarching issue that’s more prevalent not only ongoing in religion, but pretty much all areas of disagreement.

The biggest threat, as I see it, to the progression and advancement of critical thinking in society is not religion, nor politics, nor pseudo-science, nor the educational system. It’s pseudo-intellectualism, because it’s perhaps the first true evolution of the aspects of religion that appeal to people.

People as a whole are lazy-thinkers — we all are. It’s instinctive, and in most cases appropriate, to be inductive and intuitive about things. So when somebody states something that at face value appears reasonable, intuitively we’ll tend to agree, and when we agree, take that up ourselves. The problem is that for something in which you take a position such as aforementioned religion or politics or medical treatment or economics or anything of the sort, a first-glance interpretation just isn’t going to cut it.

But let’s get onto what exactly I mean by “pseudo-intellectualism.” It’s what I categorize a point that at face value, as I said, appears deep and/or fair-minded, but upon minimal evaluation is in fact intellectually bankrupt. It’s very similar, and perhaps the parent-set of what Daniel Dennett calls “deepities.” His definition of “deepity” is, “A proposition that seems to be profound because it is actually logically ill-formed.” But let’s get into an example, shall we?

This one is from Bill Maher on his show, talking to the panel about vaccinations,

“[the medical field] is wrong about a lot of stuff. There’s a hundred thousand people who die every year of medical error. There’s over a hundred thousand who die from properly prescribed prescription medicine drugs. Forty-five thousand die from basically the profit-motive. It’s a sick society, ok, and if you think I’m the crazy one for wanting to just look into this more, you’re too inside the matrix, not me.”

This variation is perhaps the most common and widespread of the fallacies of pseudo-intellectualism, and that’s “we can never be sure, therefor we can never come to any conclusions whatsoever” or as I’ll call it, the “I don’t know” fallacy. None of what he said actually relates to the effacacy of vaccination; you just as fairly could say “thousands die each year from animal attacks. If you think I’m the crazy one for wanting to look into the safety of going to the park more…” Worse yet, it essentially reaches the unintended conclusion that the entire field of medicine is worthless. It doesn’t address what “look into this more” means, given there have been clinical trials, he has no medical training, and you could always say “look into it more.” He has said pretty much nothing of value, and is a fancy way of framing “I don’t know therefor let’s do nothing” as a valid position.

It’s a similar issue with, for a lack of a better term, religious sympathizers. The typical argument goes something along the lines of, “You shouldn’t be so dismissive of people’s belief in god. You can’t know, and some people believe and others don’t. It’s faith either way.”

Again, it’s the “I don’t know” fallacy of equivocation. You don’t know whether or not I can transform into animals and you will never know, but does that make believing it just as valid as not? It’s insanity, but people want to play the high-road, faked “open-mindedness” which is really just willful ignorance.

That’s exactly how the “Intelligent Design” advocates had tried to play-up for years, and are still trying in a way, though they’ve pretty much dropped the ID thing since Dover. Rather than take a position, they’d take the “oh, but how can you be so sure of evolution? There are other opinions,” angle, which the short answer for this and every other one of these is evidence a lack of evidence is a lack of efficacy.

This is a problem that has aggrevated me for years, even in the gaming space. Common is to hear someone suggest that all reviews are subjective, therefor all reviews are valid. The existence of subjectivity does not mean the absense of collective agreement or objectivity. It does not negate that aspects included in the overall subjective work can be objectively true or false.

Other angles, which is where the deepity side of things comes in, is the attempt to make something seem wonderfully poetic, meaningful and deep, when it’s really just nonsense. Dennett’s example is, “Love is just a word.” While true that “love” is a word, that’s trivial, and stating that what the word represents is a word is clearly false.

A similar example I have, again from the gaming spectrum, is “games are art.” We hear it time again, but nobody bothers to try and define what they’re talking about. As you’ve probably heard me say before, a game is a set of rules, and the presentation of those rules does not affect what the game is. Few would suggest that tic-tac-toe is art, but many would say a modern videogame such as Uncharted 2 is art. Why is this? It’s because games aren’t art, they contain art. Of course there is artistry in games, but you’re confusing terms to call the game itself the artistic part.

What Dennett was using the term to demonstrate was use-mention errors — conflating a word’s meaning with a word’s use. What I’m using it to demonstrate is the pseudo-intellectual practise of feigning fairness. Saying, “I don’t have a side” can be wrong, and often is.

More and more, being frank and honest is considered somehow wrong, dismissed as incorrect in some sort of weird ad-hominem assumption. Conclusions can be made and sides can be correct. Positions can also be unsupported, unreasonable and logically unsound and unsupportable. This all irrespective of whether or not an objective conclusion on what the specific ultimate truth is.

October 20, 2009

Conflating Morality – God and Language

Filed under: Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 8:18 pm

It’s been a while since I blogged on religion, but this is one where I feel that even the best atheist debaters are missing the point.

A common apologist canard with regard to theism versus atheism is the concept of what they call morality. “How can you be moral without God?” or some variant therein. Now, of course there is the method of simply answering that question directly. How atheist make moral decisions, what the origin of morality in humans and society, objective versus subjective morality, etc. This has been done to varying degrees of effectiveness, and while it can get the point across, it’s ignoring that there’s an equivocation fallacy in the premise.

The question “How can you be moral without God?” is based on the apologist suggesting that the rules put for by a god in a holy book (for example, the commandments in the Bible), establish morality. The problem is to call that morality is to conflate that with the traditional meaning of the word.

The philosophical concept of morality and in any other context is reliant on the action being a personal choice to do an action that is perceived beneficial to others regardless of the effect on oneself. Any useful definition of morality includes in some part empathy. Following rules in order to not be punished by a god is the opposite of the general definition of morality, not the basis of it.

So we’ve established two general definitions for morality
a) Following the rules of a god
b) Acting in accordance to empathy and assessment of positive effects of an action, without concern for one’s own wellbeing

A question that could be asked of you is, “Is it more moral not to kill someone because you understand that person likely values his life, or because you’re afraid of going to jail?” Under definition a) the question doesn’t even make sense.

So it leads me to wonder, do the Christians who pose this question believe we should “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” because it’s in accordance with empathy, or because Jesus said so?

August 15, 2009

Microsoft Windows as a DRM Posterchild

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Philosophy — Tags: , , , , , — Zurahn @ 12:10 am

Microsoft Windows. It’s the cornerstone of one of the most profitable companies in the world, and controls a marketshare of ~90% of the Operating System market for the roughly 1 billion personal computers in the world. Naturally Microsoft takes its product very seriously, and in 2006 launched “Windows Genuine Advantage” a methodology for limiting the spread of illegitimate copies of Windows.

To understand this, we must first understand how Windows is legitimately used in the first place. After installing Windows, you have 30 days to register the product using your activation key. This key has a limit of activations that varies based on the version, and once reached, you must call Microsoft in order get Windows to continue working after 30 days and to stop it from nagging you to activate.

Cracks to stop the nagging and requirement for online or phone registration have been created, and Windows Genuine Advantage runs as a check to see if the system was properly registered or not. Microsoft requires this check for Windows Updates, and installation of Windows products.

Due to a resentment I have for the limitation on using a product I own, I usually just crack Windows, despite having several valid Windows activation keys. I had set up my parents computer from scratch and did this. However, a couple weeks ago someone tried to install Windows Live, which ran Windows Genuine Advantage, which failed due to the crack being rather old.

Now, it’s fine if Windows Live simply would not install, but Microsoft has an interesting way of coercion *cough*blackmail*cough* to get you to pay up.

Windows Genuine Advantage

Windows essentially becomes nagware forcing you to wait to log in, adding a perminent watermark to the system as well as a persistent system tray icon to harrass you. This is without consent (other than trying to install the Windows software in the first place) and does not come with an uninstall. It doesn’t help that detection is far from perfect.

Additionally, the system does not provide you the option to simply register using a valid license key, it merely directs you to where you can pay off Microsoft to STFU.

Aside from simply the malware-esque DRM methodology, by not allowing illegitimate copies access to Windows Update, Microsoft is doing genuine harm to the world. The prolific Conficker worm spread using exploit MS08-67, a buffer overflow in the remote procedure call service. This exploit was patched in October 2008, a month before Conficker was first found spreading at all.

Infected machines by Conficker or other worms or malware don’t simply inconvenience the owners of the infected PCs, but do harm in many other areas. Infected machines often become part of botnets, networks of remotely controlled systems often used for DDoS attacks and are integral in distributing spam. By also generating revenue for the creators of these infected machines by methods such as fake antivirus, grows criminal organizations.

Microsoft is not only being obnoxious and anti-consumer, they’re being completely irresponsible and in general if indirectly, is damaging their own reputation by these unpatched machines furthering Microsoft’s reputation being bankrupt in terms of security.

And for all these reasons, finally spurred by first-hand experience of Windows Genuine Advantage malware, my plans of eventually getting a copy of Windows 7 are dead. I also plan for any future computers that I should buy to get a refund for the Windows tax on it, if necessary, or buy one either with Linux or no OS preinstalled.

August 4, 2009

Blaspheming Freedom

Filed under: Life, Philosophy, Politics — Zurahn @ 1:25 am

On July 23, Ireland passed the proposed blasphemy law that makes it a crime to blaspheme, punishable by a fine up to the equivalent of ~$35,000 USD. This is an affront not only to personal freedoms, but to the expression of ideas and transmission of information. Knowledge itself is blasphemous to religion.

So, dear Interwebs, let’s do our part. Ireland is apparently out in terms of blasphemy, so we’re going to have to pick up the slack. Please make your way to the blasphemy thread and make the world a more offensive–and free–place:


Seriously, don’t hold back now.

June 24, 2009

I Didn’t Pay to See a Commercial

Filed under: Computers, Gaming, Life, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics — Tags: , , , — Zurahn @ 12:50 am

An often ignored aspect of the “piracy” issue, at least on the side of strict intellectual copyright laws, is the matter of quality. The traditional concept of “pirated” media is that they’re cheap, low-quality versions. Poor quality and a hassle. Well, perhaps once true, this hardly the case anymore, and the shared versions over the Internet are a significant problem for traditional media because the quality is in fact better.

When you have a better product, it’s easier to charge more. If you have the same product, you can still get the sale based out of guilt and implicit morality. When your product is worse than what’s free, you’re a lost cause.

Put in a DVD and you are treated to a series of advertisements showing off the publisher of the content. Choose to play the content, and you then get the honour of sitting through the warning reminding you that you can get a free version without all this crap, except you shouldn’t. Try and play it in your DVD drive, hopefully the CSS decryption software can manage to work its way past that anti-copying DRM that clearly works so well.

This extends to videogames as well. How long does it take just to get to the title screen? Is it entirely necessary to tell me everytime I put in the game to whom the developer outsourced the cinematics? You’ve already gotten my money for this product; don’t make me less likely to do the same in the future.

The FBI warning is ironically an advertisement unto itself for why it’s beneficial to act against it.

May 24, 2009

This Is My Country

Filed under: Computers, Freeware, Life, Movies, Music, Philosophy, Politics — Zurahn @ 1:28 am

I live on the border to the United States of America. A place where the people love their country almost as much as they love hearing themselves say as much. It’s one of those indisputable, inarguable truths that would otherwise be unfathomable to be without, equivalent to the love of one’s mother. Well then, what does this lowly, despondent introvert think of his obnoxious, overbearing extroverted nation? While it’s nice to feel in a superior position to the boisterous Americans, I can’t say the need for patriotism is quite so onerous on me. Call it ambivalence, if you like.

But that’s not to say I’m in no way patriotic. At least, not when taken in the spirit of the word, and not necessarily in the direct literal sense of a recognized state. My country is one without borders, without limits. In the truest sense of the word it is by the people and for the people. My country is the Internet.

In every way as one would dictate their emphatic devotion to his community, so can you place that within my own digital world. In the physical world I am very liberal, but in the virtual world I am libertarian bordering on anarchist. The Internet is the last true bastion of freedom the world over, and I won’t–I can’t–give it up without a fight.

And there is a fight. It’s not in the news, it’s not on television. But it is happening. There’s propaganda in the news, yes, but not the real story, because there’s noone there to understand it. The terms net neutrality, piracy and the like are thrown around with no understanding, no actual reporting. Nobody cares.

For the better part of the year what little efforts the Internet community can manage with regard to politics here in Canada has been fighting off the Conservative push for bill C-61, termed the “Canadian DMCA”. A media-lobby push for legislating against their outdated and dying business model. How many members of parliament even know what a byte actually is? How many representatives have any idea what DNS even stands for? Without a basic understanding of how the Internet functions, they’re on a collision course to break one of the greatest achievements in human history.

It’s not just Canada, or the United States. It’s the world over. The Pirate Bay case is currently under review for the judge’s undisclosed membership to copyright lobbies. The judge appointed to review the case? Was removed for the same bias. This is in Sweden.

And no, it’s not just a matter of idiot politicians and lobbies. The Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have long since monopolized the market and are consequently abusing their power. Usenet support from Rogers was killed under the guise of protecting against child pornography. Bell Canada’s throttling is suffocating resellers as they’re effected as well. You get what you get, because that’s all you’ve got.

Meanwhile society as a whole is as ignorant as those in control. The Conficker worm has affected by rough estimates at least 10 million PCs. This is a worm that is only on Windows XP, transmits primarily via a long-since patched exploit in network sharing–which should be off–that should also just be blocked by Windows Firewall anyway, and would be completely nullified by passing the connection through a NAT router, which you should be doing anyway. There are services such as “Geek Squad” that costs more than buying a new computer, which is convenient since they can then can sell you that too. Your computer is not “broken” you just don’t know what you’re doing.

I’m running Linux as a desktop operating system. I wrote and maintain TheVGPress.com, which runs on the Apache Web Server and is coded in PHP 5 using a MySQL database. All of which have been developed and written over the Internet, are open-source and free for anyone to use. Freedom: It’s more than just a turn of phrase. It has meaning, and you can see it here.

This is my country; this is my world. My entertainment, my hobbies, interests, friends. My hopes, dreams, and aspirations.

All of it. It’s all in danger. In danger of ignorance, of corruption, of greed and profiteering. Morality and law are two entirely different things. While I wrote a series of pieces on the morality of the sharing of copyrighted materials, which in itself wasn’t one-sided, legally standing there is no argument. Arguing that, for example, downloading a song that a recording studio has the rights to is illegal threatens literally everything. You’ve now made the entire structure of the Internet invalid. I’ve gone on long enough; if you don’t understand how that last sentence is true, then that’s exactly the point. You don’t understand. Nobody in any sort of position to make a decision on what is right has any idea what right is.

Some may have a view of my country as a bit weird. What with the grammatically challenged cats, random videos, and a penchant for abhorrently graphic imagery. Well you’re close. We’re out of our damned minds. And that’s just the way we like it.

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