Saturday, June 30, 2012

Physics of the Impossible

I haven't finished reading through the book yet, but I need to make a pitch for this book. It was published in 2008 (I've mentioned I'm behind the curve, right?) by Michio Kaku, and it's called Physics of the Impossible: A Scientific Exploration Into the World of Phasers, Force Fields, Teleportation, and Time Travel. This book might as well be called The Science Fiction Author's Guide to Making Impossible Technology Plausible. Kaku writes in a very clear and very easy to read tone, and there's not a lot of intimidating equations inside of the book (clearly, he took a lesson from Hawking: Hawking was told by his publisher that each equation reduces book sales, so he only included one equation - Einstein's famous equation), and Kaku makes understanding how these science fiction tools and tropes interact with the diverse world of theoretical physics easy it understand (as easy to understand given the subject matter can be, anyway).

This is a good book. I'm going to have to recommend this to anyone interested in understand how real science interacts with the world of science fiction.

The Unbearable Status of "Technological Stagnation"

Transhumanism post - I know I haven't done of these in a while, but I've been flagging in inspiration. Today, though, I found an article that frustrated the hell out of me, so here we go.

I was reading over at H+ magazine and I ran across this article by Dale Carrico. Carrico is (according to the comments, anyway; I don't know this for a fact) a leftist and a critic of transhumanism and futurism all together, leaving me to wonder if this man has even been awake for the last 30 years. In his article, The Unbearable Stasis of "Accelerating Change", Dale levels quite a few accusations against the transhumanist (and, by extension, science fiction) community. There's a lot of fair criticisms to be leveled to the community; criticisms are and constructive criticism is always helpful because it helps you improve. Very little of what is said here are accurate criticisms. Rather, this is a variation of the "futurehype" argument. I haven't seen the futurehype argument employed before this, so this is my first shot at tackling it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Thoughts on Gaming Systems (Part 1, definitions)

Before we go any further, note that this is not going to be about console gaming systems. Also note that I'm a horrible, horrible English person because I'm just now learning the difference between console/council/counsel (I knew they existed, I just didn't know which one was which so confusion lead me to try and avoid the words). This is an analysis of my favorite (and not so favorite) pen and paper RPG game systems.

First, some gaming terminology:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Transgression of Gary Stus

Anthem, Chapter 1

So, where we last left off we were just getting into the Council. We talked a bit about our protagonist's "curse" - that is, he's a 6 foot tall canon sue and, by virtue of that, different from everyone else in this world. I suppose when everyone in the world is the same and willingly goes along with this degenerate, straw-stuffed form of "collectivism" - which is unlike any form of collectivism that I've ever bore witness to; not even anarcho-communism is like this, and fascism elevates some individuals above others - if you even make the slightest wave you're going to stand out. But the novel shines on our friend, Equality 7-2521. He has a long and storied history making waves by being better than everyone else. But then, this comes with being a canon sue, so there should be no surprise there.

Happy Birthday!

Today is this blog's birthday, (actually not really. That was the 16th, but today is easier for me to remember). Today is also my birthday - my blog turned 1 year old today, and I turned 27 years old.

As far as birthdays go, today was a bit of a downer. I have to admit, I wouldn't know what to do even if I did have the capacity to do stuff; I guess that comes with being a loner and being poor. Still, I received one thing that did brighten my day quite a bit: the Blue Pimpernel is now available for sale through

Also, because of it being my birthday, I've marked down the $9.99 version of the down by 5% - it's now $9.49 rather than $9.99, and will stay that way until the end of the weekend (or longer if I forget I did it). The ebook is still $2.99 and the larger hardback is still $17.95, but I prefer the $9.99 version myself (not to mention, I couldn't discount the ebook. It wouldn't let me). So if you're still looking to get a copy, you can save yourself 5%, or $0.50 cents.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Council of Omnisicent Vagueness

Anthem, Chapter 1

So, we're still in chapter 1 of Anthem. Previously, I took a look at the character names - our protagonist, Equality 7-2521, refers to himself using the first person plural, "we", because at some point in the future people have lost all identity and individuality - never mind that Equality 7-2521 has a distinctive and individual name from his love interest, Liberty 5-3000. This has a very real literary purpose, but the mere fact that Equality 7-2521 has a separate name/number from Liberty 5-3000 suggests that they are separate individuals with distinctive personalities and therefore, have individuality. That they have individuality shoots Rand's message in the foot right out of the gate; they're not supposed to have individuality. This is a society without individuality, or one that suppresses individuality (by giving you individual names...). That's why they don't use the first person pronoun. Clearly, the book is contradictory on this when you think about it hard enough, but contradictory self-defeating logic are hardly unusual for Rand's philosophy.

I feel it necessary to state that again that it's necessary to have these distinctive names; otherwise, this would be a headache to read. "Now who the hell is this guy again?" We do it enough in books where the characters have separate names and personalities; attempting something like this would make the book unreadable (okay, okay, fine. Even more unreadable). I also feel it necessary to point out the fact that it's necessary for our protagonist to have a distinctive name shows that individuality is a human trait that, no matter how hard "collectivism" tries, will never go away. There's no amount of psychosurgery that could make that go away. To make that go away, you have to remove sentience, and therefore, you're no longer human. In fact, I remember playing (running, actually) a game called Alternity. Alternity is a game system; it has an attached setting called Star*Drive, which is a hard-ish ("hard" compared to Star Wars, "hard-ish" compared to Star Trek, and mushy soft when compared to Orion's Arm) science fiction space opera setting. One of the playable alien species in the game was a race of extremely humanoid rubber forehead aliens called the Aleerian. The Aleerian are actually born with integrated nanotechnology; it's an interesting concept, but you don't have to be an alien for that. Eclipse Phase does this with humans, who are born in exowombs. The Aleerian, however, are all wired into one another, and they willingly subdue their own personality for the greater whole of the species - in short, their hat was a theme park version of communism, manifest in alien cyborgs. They used names like what Rand uses, but they still retained a degree of individuality despite it; an Aleerian (or, because humans are bullies and creative, the Mechalus) did not have to totally submit their individuality (because, frankly, that'd make for a really boring species to play). Thus, names like Deidre-3201 and Gamma-34214, your "typical" Mechalus name, aren't unusual. There's the idea that they submit themselves to the whole willingly, but at the same time, they still have that degree of individuality present. Rand likely didn't want that degree of individuality there, nor did she want the idea that this was done willingly, since that undermines her message: collectivism does not eradicate individuality. Furthemore, the Mechalus are  fictional "aliens" with this as their hat, while these are supposed to be humans in Rand's book.

This is the problem with writing anvillious allegories. I walk a fine line when I write allegories, and I try not to let it get in the way of the story. Here in Anthem, the allegory is the story. Thus, little things like this can blow the narrative wide open, like an over-inflated car tire, and send the whole book screaming off the edge of a cliff 300 feet up in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

So, it's easily enough said, "well, that does it for this book. When your key conceit does a bellyflop instead of a swan dive and misses the pool by about six yards, it's time to call it a day."Alas, where's the fun in that?

So, let's continue learning a bit about Rand's world, and see what other problems we can find!

Friday, June 8, 2012

And.... I May Have Been Right

Nasty Robo-Calls may have occurred during the recall election.

Specifically, these robo-calls that may have occurred told people that "by signing the petition, their job was done and they didn't need to come and vote." These are unsubstantiated at the moment and this is a story that's coming out of Wisconsin in the days after the Walker won the election. It's likely that if they did occur, Walker had nothing to do with it. It was likely some rogue, criminal GOP (synonymous? We're getting that way) or sub-GOP organization that did it.

How sad is this? We're taking it seriously. I'd love to think that Walker won this legally. But I just don't believe anything that the GOP says anymore. They could tell me the sky was blue and I'd have to check for myself to make sure. They've lied to their pin-head congregation and the whole of America for years. Ever since Bush was in office, before that, with Regan and Nixon. I would not put this beyond the special interest groups involved in that recall elections; especially in the wake of the FB scandals of people saying they were destroying recall signatures, or trying to impede the signature effort by lying to people. The real election fraud in this country is not done by immigrants. It's not done by blacks, or Asians, or Muslims or any other group that's routinely persecuted. The only group that (acts like it's) carrying out voter fraud are white Christian men. Maybe we need to start gearing our voter suppression "anti-fraud" efforts in that direction. "I'm sorry, you belong to this church? It's our understanding that this church has possibly, at some point in the distant past, likely carried out something that resembles voter fraud, so we can't let you vote. What do you mean your church only goes back to the 1990s? Okay, fine, your church doctrine, then. I'm sure that goes back further."

Republicans are some of the least trustworthy people on the planet. And they're so fucking blatant about it; that's what makes this really bad.

And before you say "well, anyone stupid enough to believe that deserves to lose", remember this: our education system is shit. We're not teaching our children civics. We're not teaching them their basic rights; these uninformed children grow up to be uninformed adults. If this happened, it worked, it's very revealing just how deeply our society has failed its people. It's not they're fault they're misinformed. They live in a society where they're bombarded by misinformation all the time. There are likely tens of millions of Americans who don't even know what their basic rights are. They were never given the mental tools necessary to determine what's true and what's not and in some cases, told the exact opposite. Their epistemological methodology has less substance than aerogel. This is not their fault. It's society's fault, and its the fault of the people - who are almost uniformly right-wing - that perpetuate this in society. Democracy cannot work in this environment. It won't work in this environment.

And it doesn't work in the United States anymore, either. The mere fact that such voter fraud can be taken serious shows that. Democracy? I'm sorry, we're all out of that. We exported the last little bit we had to Iraq, and you see how well that's turned out. However, we're having a discount sale of fascism in this country, it's 50% off and we've got both kinds - country and western!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The TRUE Middle Class Scored a Victory In Wiscousin...

Unfortunately, the actual middle class just got fucked over something fierce. It's like how anything good for TRUE America, the REAL America, is disastrous for the physical, corporeal United States (I should start up a corporation and trademark "True America/n", "Real America/n", and "True Middle Class" so I can laugh when I send cease and desist orders for trademark violations to the stupid people who run around saying this garbage).

I aimed to rant about how frustrating this thing is; I whip-lashed today between "well they deserve it for voting him in" and "how do we know this wasn't a case of fraud? In the lead up to the election there were all sorts of rumors of freelance right wingers out in the field lying about who could and couldn't sign the petition, or destroying petitions, of stuff along those lines - there was an entire FB page devoted to it. How do we know these people not only stopped there (providing they started at all)? How do we know they didn't fuck with the votes, too? And more importantly, isn't it really sad it's even gotten to that point?" I suppose as your country spirals down the toilet to 3rd world status, rigging elections becomes a natural thing, and I'm just jumping the gun (maybe).

I'm friends on FB with a group called "Being Liberal". You can gasp in awe now; I know that comes as a total surprise. Now that we're done, I occasionally get updates on my news feed from them. One of them was a letter that family members of a fellow friend received; the back story behind it is that they live in West Bend, WS., and they got this letter in their mail box today:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Yet Another Party Idea Finds a Home In The Real World

I can't take any credit at all for predicting this stuff, because anyone with a brain can look down the road and see what's coming. However, those who've read The Blue Pimpernel are aware that the school system is privatized, although the private company runs the schools out of the former, state-owned building. I don't go too in depth into how the system works; mostly because it's not entirely relevant and partially because I still want stories like this to echo it.

Ever since the idiots in Michigan voted Snyder into office, shit has only gotten worse. Snyder is a corporate crony; what can you expect from someone who takes his marching orders from the Koch brothers, in much the same way that Scott Walker, the former governor of Wisconsin and future convict (I'm being optimistic, I know), is. Snyder, however, has succeeded in undermining democracy far more successfully than anything Walker has been able to push through. Case in point is his Emergency Manager law; which basically allows the governor to appoint someone to come in and do whatever is necessary to fix local debts.

I can smell the democracy. Can you? I know King Snyder can. With this law, he can appoint any criminal, corporate capitalist* scumbag to come in and undermine the democratic elected process - and he was elected by the same people who whine, moan, and shove an oversized suppository of indignation up their ass over "how we should vote on the rights of minorities". This law has been in place for several years now; I want to say it's been in place for about three years. This story, however, is more recent: it shows exactly what happens when you let capitalist shitheads run things: Muskegon Heights has their entire school district on the chopping block.