Tuesday, October 31, 2017

iPhone X Facial Recognition

Apple: "There is a 1 in a million probability of a random person unlocking your iPhone with Face ID."

The Real World: absolutely no way in hell.

Apple loves to throw out ridiculous numbers that have absolutely no basis in fact. Their numbers usually don't even have the possibility of fact.

Predictable sequence:
1. Users get phone, discover that Face ID is much less accurate than promised.
2. Other Apple users flood message boards telling the people who reported the problem that they're doing it wrong.
3. Apple says "it's looking into a problem experienced by a small number of uses."

What makes this claim of Apple particularly amusing is that there doesn't appear to be any way to even validate these numbers. How on earth could they run the tests necessary to establish this degree of accuracy? They couldn't, and that makes this even more ridiculous

So, just waiting. With popcorn.

Well, This Sort Of Snuck Up On Me

It hadn't snowed yet, and it didn't even seem like it was going to be cold enough for another few weeks. Incorrect!

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Craftening

A text: I had to go to a Joann's. Pretty sure I have PTSD. 

Joann's is a huge craft store. This is the story.

Eli 16.2 came home from practice Thursday night and showed me where one of the "thingies" his suspenders attach to on his goalie pants had broken off. 6'0" and "140 pounds of fury" (as he likes to call it) means that goalie pants won't stay up without suspenders.

He had games coming up in Detroit last weekend, so they had to be fixed.

I went to the local pro shop (his son plays on Eli's team. Great kid, great dad, great family), and sought advice from a guru. He told me to keep it simple, get a button about the same size, and sew it on. Attach the suspenders to the button.

Good advice.

So I went to Joann's.

I anticipated receiving help from an elderly, Hobbit-like woman who had infinite patience and time to assist me as she looked over her bifocals with a twinkle in her eye. It would be pleasant, and relaxing.

Instead, I walked into the crafting version of The Purge.

There were woman everywhere, traveling at mall walker speed, holding bolts of fabric over their heads like medieval flails. They shouted to each other. Battle commands, I assumed.

There were numbers to take, and I took number ten. Perhaps I would be asked to join a legion.

When my number was called, I stepped up and explained my problem. She said, "*$&%*$*$**@&*#**@(#*$&%&%&$&&." All sewing terms.

I wanted to say "I literally have no idea what any of those words mean." 

After her stint as Charlie Brown's teacher, she pointed to a corner.

I wanted to say "There are approximately 172,000 items between where we're standing and where you're pointing. What are the odds?"

I said none of the things I wanted to say. Instead, I walked vaguely in the direction she pointed and fell into a dark pit of despair.

I remembered something about pants buttons, maybe from a recent fever dream, and incredibly, I found them.

Or, rather, I found their space. They were out of stock.

I did buy some buttons, after joining the longest register line I've seen in a decade. Where did these people come from? Why were they buying all these things? Is this The Craftening?

Final answer: upholstery needle. Button similar in size to the lost piece. 30 lb. test, braided fishing line for thread.

Inner calm: forever lost.

Costume Count 2017!

Okay, it's time for the annual Costume Count. Looking forward to big numbers this year!

If you can submit in an Excel file, that's great, as it's easier for me to tabulate. But any format is fine, as long as you send them in.

Eli 16.2 doesn't have practice on Tuesday, so we'll actually all be home to pass out candy.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Links!

This is just an incredible, wonderful story: A Catfishing With a Happy Ending. Also, this is a tremendously fun video: Science Helps Reveal Which Carnival Games Are a Scam, and Which Ones You Can Actually Win.

From Wally, and this is a terrific read: An Illustrated Look at the Terlingua Chili Cook-off. Absolutely fascinating: Maine historian helped rediscover the World War I ‘color famine’. A good Halloween read: Inside the World of a Halloween Sound-Effects Artist.

From C. Lee, and this is an excellent time-waster if you're interested in art: The Lost Hokusai. Color-changing pancakes: Green pancakes that change color to the delight of kids. This is excellent: Have We Been Building Chairs All Wrong? I had no idea: Grocery stores are adapting to more male shoppers — whom they treat like knuckleheads. Discouraging (Antarctica!): There is not a continent on planet Earth without sexual harassment. This is amazing: JAXA probe finds 50-km cavern under surface of the moon.

From Steven Davis, and this is incredibly clever: New Paper Cutouts by ‘Paperboyo’ Turn Landmarks Across the Globe Into Scenes of Temporary Amusement.

From Rob Funk, and this is both fascinating and depressing: This nuclear fallout shelter was untouched for 55 years. It might come in handy now.

From Paul Meyer, and this is super cool (and don't forget about the costume count on Halloween!): Google Frightgeist (popular costumes).

You know you want one (I know I do): Halloween bento boxes.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Loot and Fools, Part Two

So there's a way to be fair about this?


#1 Pay-to-win game modes should be walled off from other modes. 
Pretty simple, isn't it? If developers have a mode where paying extra increases the power or skill of a character, just label it as such. Leave the other modes alone.

#2 In non pay-to-win modes, in-game purchases should be limited to cosmetic items only. 
Again, it's just not that complicated.

#3 Have players pay for additional content, not ability. 
Add content (side missions, alternate story lines) that people pay for instead of selling a "+7 Sword of Unwavering Purchase Price in Conjunction with Cheetos and Mountain Dew."

Now I'm afraid that someone in game marketing will read this and go "Wait--an RPG where the final battle is on a mountain. Mountain Dew!"

On, the horror.

I'm just waiting for the driving game five years from now where the initial purchase price gets you a set of tracks and a character.

No cars.

You have to buy the cars as in-game purchases, but no worry! If you don't want to do that, you can just earn them through regular gameplay, walking your character from car lot to car lot. On average, it's only four hours in real-time between lots. Except the people who did buy cars get bonus experience points if they can find you and run you down, which resets your journey back to the beginning.

I don't people will mind. Unless we see data that says they do, of course. Until then, it's just random people complaining on the Internet.

Now, will big companies willingly do this? Of course not. So, for consumer protection, this falls on the software ratings boards (ESRB in the U.S., PEGI in Europe). Games shouldn't just be listed as having IAP, they should be listed by types:
IAP-S in-app purchases related to story content
IAP-C in-app purchases of cosmetic items
IAP-A in-app purchases of character ability

Something like that would give us the clearer information on what we're buying (and what we haven't bought yet). Right now, it's just too easy to confuse the paying customers.

Whenever someone in the game industry tells you this is "complicated", don't believe them. It's not. What's complicated is squeezing every penny out of our pockets. Being even-handed, and clearly labeling a game and what's inside, isn't complicated at all.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Loot and Fools

An interesting article: Loot boxes: Future of AAA or a monetisation misfire?

Takeaway: boy, the gaming industry is clueless about this.

A few excerpts:
Hidden Path's Jeff Pobst, who previously discussed this subject with us, says the audience has contributed to escalating costs.

"What players may not realise is their expectation that each game in a series gets bigger and better and has more content and looks more modern than before... means it is likely going to cost more to make. The creators are going to want to find a way to cover those new costs as well."

So it's our fault, apparently.

Does the very presence of microtransactions in full-price games really affect that many people, especially when so many publishers stress that they are optional?

"I don't know the numbers, but my experience tells me this is probably the case," says Cousins.

He continues: "Until we have hard data that the presence of loot boxes in a given title is negatively affecting sales and profitability, rather than just being a thing people talk about on the internet, we should not worry about messaging issues."

Oh, my. So things that your customers talk about on the Internet are nothing to worry about.

"Personally, I'm not sure that individual game mechanics or features such as loot boxes are themselves the driving issue for players when you see outcry or concern about the fairness of a game, its feature set, or its monetisation," Pobst explains.

So what people are saying they're angry about is not really what they're angry about. Interesting.

This is also a message that sometimes gets lost in the outrage: in most cases, microtransactions in full-price games are entirely optional. Following the initial outburst, Shadow of War design director Bob Roberts told our sister site Eurogamer that the team had developed the entire game without the loot boxes activated in order to ensure balance.

Sure, that happened. I totally believe that.

Just quoting what these people are saying makes them sound like echo chamber fools.

Here are two postulates.
#1 In-game purchases for non-cosmetic items will, by definition, affect gameplay and game balance.

#2 Adjusting game balance to maximize in-game purchases will, by definition, worsen the quality of the experience for the non-paying player.

Those postulates are immovable.

The gaming industry is trying to min-max the expenditure, not the experience. For them to claim that it's not affecting gameplay is embarrassing. The chances of that not affecting the experience are exactly zero percent.

This isn't gaming. It's behavioral psychology for the sole purpose of increasing the likelihood of a player spending additional money.

Pretty bullshit, huh?

But wait, there's actually a way to be fair about this. We'll talk about it tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Fleeting Nature of Fame

"Have you seen this video about the swan?" Gloria asked.

"What video?" I asked.

"It's a swan that gardens and feeds fish," she said.

"Hmm, let me look it up on the laptop so I get the big screen view," I said. "I'll just Google 'swan that gardens'--and there it is. Swan gardens and feeds fish."

Then I see something in the sidebar.

"Wait, hold on. I see a video for TWO swans gardening. Your shit is old and stale. Also, I see a link for 'Man and Goose: a love story.' "

"Don't click on that," Gloria said.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Yankee Hating

We were flipping back and forth between a Big 1G game and Astros-Yankees.

"Who on earth is that?" she asked. "He's huge!"

"C.C. Sabathia," I said. "Three and a half bills, at your service."

"I guess you don't have to be in shape to be a pitcher," she said.

"Looking at him, it would be very hard to argue," I said. "It looks like the only running he does between starts is to the buffet."

"He's a man, but he has a camel toe," she said. "The announcer just said he's six foot six and weighs three hundred pounds."

"He weighed three hundred pounds in eighth grade," I said. "No man that tall can have that belly and weigh only three hundred pounds. When he runs he looks like a lava lamp."

Texts: There's No Need For Violence

There's a woodpecker
attacking our house. What's
the protocol here?  Do I take
a plate of non-house wood out
there as a negotiating strategy?
Give him an envelope filled
with cash? What's my play?

Forwarded to Mark.   He'll say get the pellet gun out. 

I just opened a window and
yelled "HEY! MOVE IT ALONG!"
Seemed to work. Pretty civil

Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week is this incredible story: Stunning AI Breakthrough Takes Us One Step Closer to the Singularity.

From Wally, and this is an excellent rabbit hole: BREAKFAST: Eating the World Every Morning. As bad as the Titanic: RMS Empress of Ireland. This is fascinating: Why Should a Melon Cost as Much as a Car?

A slew of terrific links from C. Lee. First, it's The Grim Crime-Scene Dollhouses Made by the ‘Mother of Forensics’.  Not many people can say they saved the world: Stanislav Petrov was declared to have died on September 18th. This is an excellent read: The teaching of economics gets an overdue overhaul.

From Steven Davis, and it's a top-ten headline: How Many Cows Was a 16th-Century Tapestry Worth? Ask the Met. This is so excellent: The Millionaire Machine - Numberphile. I highly recommend this: Levi's Wokes - SNL. This is fascinating: Bell's Theorem: The Quantum Venn Diagram Paradox.

From jdv, and this is a great story: Hogwarts Express rescues family stranded in Highlands.

From Griffin Cheng, and this is terrifying: A Disturbing Film About the Night in 1939 When 20,000 American Nazis Rallied in New York City.

From Geoff Engelstein, and don't forget about the Halloween costume count: See the Most Popular Halloween Candy in Your State.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

May Already Be Suffering From Short-Term Memory Loss

I've probably written about this, and maybe not that long ago.

I've come to realize that lots of people have "cabins" up here for the summer. I've also come to realize that none of these cabins are ever finished. And they're money pits.

As far as I can tell, cabins are boats on dry land.

Chips Are Optional

Last weekend, Gloria was cold in the hotel room, even though the hotel room wasn't cold (I'm always cold, so I know this to be true).

Hotels have lots and lots of blankets.

"Get all seven layers on you," I said. "You're a dip!"

Something We Can All Agree On

I was listening to the GWJ Podcast from a few weeks ago, and I misunderstood what someone was saying.

They said "cyber punk". I thought they said "cyber funk."

I'll tell you what. If there's one thing that the entire universe could use, not just gaming, it's more cyber funk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Future of Us

I think we all knew stuff like this was going on, but it's still disheartening to see it spelled out:
Activision Researched Using Matchmaking Tricks to Sell In-Game Items.

They have a patent.

A few excerpts:
"For example, in one implementation, the system may include a microtransaction engine that arranges matches to influence game-related purchases," according to the patent. "For instance, the microtransaction engine may match a more expert/marquee player with a junior player to encourage the junior player to make game-related purchases of items possessed/used by the marquee player. A junior player may wish to emulate the marquee player by obtaining weapons or other items used by the marquee player."

..."In a particular example, the junior player may wish to become an expert sniper in a game (e.g., as determined from the player profile)," according to the patent. "The microtransaction engine may match the junior player with a player that is a highly skilled sniper in the game. In this manner, the junior player may be encouraged to make game-related purchases such as a rifle or other item used by the marquee player. "

...The system can also drop players into matches that will make use of an in-game-related purchase, according to the patent. 

"Doing so may enhance a level of enjoyment by the player for the game-related purchase, which may encourage future purchases," according to the patent. "For example, if the player purchased a particular weapon, the microtransaction engine may match the player in a gameplay session in which the particular weapon is highly effective, giving the player an impression that the particular weapon was a good purchase. This may encourage the player to make future purchases to achieve similar gameplay results."

The patent also makes it clear that while the examples used in the patent are all for a first-person-shooter game, the system could be used across a wide variety of titles.

Yeah, that's brutal. Activision says they're not actually using this yet, but it's just a matter of time, and we all know that. And every other AAA gaming company will be using variations of this same strategy, along with anything else they can devise to skim even one more penny from us.

Basically, games from big companies have become elaborate Skinner boxes, nothing more. I'm not sure some of them even qualify as games.

We all used to kid ourselves that in-app purchases didn't affect the gameplay experience. That's what they kept telling us, anyway. It was all about "consumer choice" and "optimizing gameplay time".

I think we all knew that wasn't true. I'm not sure any of us, though, realized just how bad it would become.

Every gameplay experience in these games is compromised now. The percentage of gameplay that's affected by pay walls has gotten higher and higher. Many of the big publisher titles only exist as a way to optimize additional purchases inside the game.

Games have turned into the casino experience.

I linked to this book a few years ago: Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas. It explains, in significant detail, the incredibly complex ways in which casinos create environments to manipulate our behavior.

This is what IAP games have turned into, and I strongly suspect there are plenty of "casino behaviorists" on the payroll of big gaming companies now.

That all sounds quite bleak, but in a very satisfying way, it's not.

Sure, the AAA titles have devolved into this nightmare. Somehow, though, this robust, wonderful layer of indie games has supplanted the need for AAA games, at least for me.
[Important exceptions: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. But Nintendo generally doesn't employ the crapjinks that these other companies do.]

Golf Story? Fantastic. For the King? Unbelievably fun (I'm writing about it next week). Instead of spending $60 on AAA games and having content locked behind paywalls, I can buy 3-4 indie games, at least, for the same amount of money, and I'll have much more fun.

In some ways, gaming has never been better. You just have to know where to look.

So AAA publishers, go ahead and continue putting out what are essentially more and more complex versions of Candy Crush.

I don't miss you at all.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Note

I purposely don't write about serious subjects very often. I know you guys come here to enjoy yourself and (hopefully) have a laugh or two, and I respect that.

Occasionally, though, when I think it's important to speak up, I will.


Let's rip the band-aid off, America.

From the day this country was founded, it has always been more acceptable to be a racist than to protest racism.

Think about that.

The founding principle of this country wasn't freedom for all. We all know that. It's still not a basic principle of this country.

It never has been.

So when NFL players kneel during the national anthem to protest the cancer that rots this country, and people are angry at them, I go thermonuclear. Which is why I haven't written about this until now, because I just couldn't do it with any sense of control.

What's interesting, to me, is how the sequence of events unfolding now has been the same for centuries in America. Let's have a look, and note that the language used isn't that different from what was used during the civil rights protests in the 1960s.

Step One: NFL players protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. Very simple.
Step Two: The response totally avoids even mentioning the reason for the protest, and will always focus on three words:

These three words are so sadly inept that I almost burst out laughing while I typed them. Let's explore.

"Disrespectful"--Wait, what would "respectful" protest look like? I'm certain that very few people who have this objection could even formulate a response to that question. It's ludicrous on its face.
"Inappropriate"--This is certainly a magic word, because anything can be labeled inappropriate, no matter the action or the venue. Why is protest supposed to be "appropriate", anyway?
"Unpatriotic"--This is the best. This is when the deepest strain of ugly authoritarianism that we have in this country rears its head. Look, it wouldn't have to be kneeling during the national anthem for a protest to get this label. For many people, the act of protesting is, by definition, unpatriotic.

Another word that gets bandied about is "ungrateful", which has serious racial overtones when used about African Americans (or any other minority group).

What's particularly disturbing is that so many people don't seem to understand that protest is, in its own way, a form of patriotism. That's how this country is supposed to work!

I've seen so many NFL owners and commentators use these buzzwords to describe the protest, and not one of them has, at any point, addressed the substance of what's being protested. The criminal justice system, from police to prosecutors to judges, is savagely unequal in this country, and there is overwhelming evidence to support that belief.

But hey, that's not the problem here. The protest is the problem.

There's obviously a racial component here. Some of the comments Jerry Jones has made, in particular, sound like a barely-disguised version of "The help is gettin' uppity here." This is the same Jerry Jones who played on an all-white Arkansas Razorbacks team that won the national championship in 1964.

Would they have won that championship with an all-white team if college football had been integrated back then? Hell, no. Jones himself has been a gigantic beneficiary of white privilege, of not having to compete on an equal footing.

Something else worth noting here is that silent protest can be very, very powerful, and deeply unsettling. Why else would so many people totally lose their shit over people kneeling during the national anthem, but not be upset by the persistent, endemic racism that has plagued this country for centuries?

At this point, with what has happened in this country's history, and with what's happening now, I'm not surprised that people are kneeling.

I'm surprised that people are standing.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Very sorry, but totally exhausted from being in Detroit for a showcase (4-0, Eli went 2-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .945 save percentage), so a few pictures for today.

Also, tomorrow I'm writing about Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, so just be warned. It's not a political post, but it is a post about America, and that might hit a nerve for some of you.

Now, on to pictures!

Honestly, I don't see how anyone could tell the full story of dragons loving tacos in just one book, so this was inevitable.

If you want to fully appreciate the post-industrial hellscape that is being in a hockey hotel near an airport, just take a look at this picture. Operative themes for miles around: broken pavement and the color brown. 

Also, in the back, see how "America's Favorite Value Inn" is right next door to--a bistro. Optimal proximity? You decide!

Wait--15 calories a serving? A serving of what? Gelatin? That can be a serving? I wouldn't look so happy, kid. 

This small individual seems to enjoy sitting on our porch. The feeling is mutual. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Links!

From Eric Higgins-Freese, with an outstanding accompanying image: Santa’s tomb possibly found, Christmas ruined.

Here is a long and fantastic read that will absolutely blow your mind: American Hippopotamus. Seriously, you absolutely must read this one.

From Geoff Engelstein, and I had no idea it worked like this: What happens to your Steam account when you die?

From Steven Davis, and what a twenty years it's been: Cassini Burns Into Saturn, a grand finale to a 20 year mission. I linked to a different version of this previously, but this one is even better: Swiss freestyle skier’s acrobatic parkour training. This is just amazing: How Kanazawa gold leaf is made.

From C. Lee, and this is just a fantastic, funny video: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is a game about using a sledgehammer to climb a mountain. This is a wonderful documentary: In Tune with Time Watchmaker Masahiro Kikuno. This is so touching: Hachikō.

From Wally, and I don't think I'm even surprised at this point: Statement from Atlantic Media General Counsel Aretae Wyler on Scam Using The Atlantic Names. Savage and brutal: Trench Warfare in Korea.

From Kai M, and this is an amazing story: The Story Behind an Unbelievable Photograph.

From Matt Kreuch, and this is both graphic and hilarious: The Legend of Swamp Ass and Other Tales of Football's Most Pivotal Partnership.

From Tim Hibbets, and this is a wonderful story about kindness (David Bowie alert): Masks.

From Scott Sanders, and this is terrific: Hotel Haludovo, the Original Adriatic Palace of Sin.

From Eric Higgins-Freese (he's a pair of bookends this week, apparently),  and this is fantastic: London's amazing underground infrastructure revealed in vintage cutaway maps.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Favorite Android

After the post last week about android-human relationships, C. Lee wrote in such a thoughtful analysis that I'm sharing it in full. It's all C. Lee from here on out. Enjoy.

A few years back, after you discussed “The Windup Girl,” I wrote in, saying I thought a relationship with a nearly-human android would be all right. I hate to admit it, but I’ve changed my mind. Depending on how AIs are developed, it seems to me human-AI relationships will be either problematic or unlikely. That’s not to say they won’t happen; I just think there’ll be a fly in the ointment.

Assuming we don’t go laissez-faire on AI development, designers will try to enforce socially appropriate behavior in AIs. Maybe the safeguards will be hard-wired, like Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, or maybe the AIs will be psychologically conditioned, the way human beings are. The constraints will extend to the emotional realm, and so you’ll have AIs designed not to be assholes -- that are, in fact, actively pleasant to be around and that cater to humans’ emotional wants.

If you deal with AIs on a superficial level, as we do with most people outside our family and close friends, this would surely be a good thing. Rather than endure unpleasant incompetents, we’d conduct business with flawlessly charming professionals.

A skeptic might argue human authenticity would be lost: An AI clerk would be pleasant to you because he or she has to be, but a human clerk's pleasantness would presumably reflect genuine good will. However, as any retail worker would attest under oath, if human clerks seem pleasant, that’s generally because you’re seeing a social mask, one crafted to cope with often-unpleasant customers. In other words, you’re getting canned, conditioned – I’d go so far as to say compelled -- responses anyway from human personnel, so why worry about getting them from an AI?

But I’d argue the skeptic is on firmer ground when it comes to deeper emotional relationships. It seems to me there’ll be an inevitable “uncanny valley” when it comes to freedom of choice for AIs: The fear of creating Frankenstein’s monster is too ingrained in us.

In this valley, the AIs may appear to have free will, but will actually be following the dictates of their programming. An AI may appear to choose a human partner, but its choices will have been limited to avoid harm, emotional or otherwise, to humans -- to the point where it has no real free will to speak of. Until an AI is free to behave unpleasantly, it’ll remain stuck in that valley.

Granted, past this valley of constraint, you can imagine an AI with what we consider free will. (One hopes it’d like you enough to choose not to be unpleasant.) But until that point -- so long as the AI’s behavior is restricted by its creator’s will -- what genuine emotional value can a human find in an AI partner who says, “I love you?”

“Would you love me even if you weren’t an AI?” a human might ask plaintively.

“Of course I would,” the AI would reply, without a trace of irony. Irony is unpleasant to some humans, after all.

The human might think, “Well, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…” and avoid thinking too deeply about the matter. Other people might not.

I’d argue that one of the most important things someone can do in a relationship, aside from not being an asshole, is tell you when you’re being an asshole yourself, and this might be even more valuable in the long run. It’s hard to imagine a restricted AI delivering the message, however richly deserved it might be; the risk of emotional harm would likely keep it silent or limit its honesty.

Another thing many people want from romantic partners is affirmation; a person assailed by self-doubt may find genuine comfort in having someone say, honestly, “I love you; I value you; you’re special to me.”

But if the AI partner would say those things to any human with equal sincerity, then there’s really nothing special about any particular human partner, however much the AI might say otherwise. I suspect not being genuinely special to a lover would bother most people.

I’m not a wealthy or famous man; no prestige clings to my name. So I’ve never second-guessed romantic relationships; if a woman tells me she loves me, I’m generally inclined to believe her. (Famous last words, I know.) However, this is not the reality for people who are, in fact, rich or famous. I imagine at some point, they must feel suspicion and unease about their partner’s motives. “Does she love me or my money?” “Does he love me or only the image around me?” “Would anybody do so long as they were powerful?” and so on. And I think people would feel something similar with AI partners stuck in that uncanny valley. The problem remains even if you can somehow imprint the AI exclusively on a human: “Does he love me just because I bonded with him first?” “If she’d had the choice, would she rather have bonded with someone else?”

Now I believe that rich and famous people do find love. And I realize many people would simply feel fortunate to have an endlessly patient, pleasant, and compliant partner, and these people wouldn’t worry about their unique value or lack thereof. But not everyone can deal with that kind of relationship; not everyone would be content to accept behaviors at surface value; not everyone would want an emotional yes-man or woman. For all the annoyances and griefs that come with loving a sentient, independent being, there can also be benefits that might not exist with AIs for some time. Not because those benefits are impossible to replicate, but because the inherently unequal relationships of creation and creator, servant and master will hinder progress along those lines. After all, there are a number of people in this world -- those in power, and those who would have power -- who consider independence to be not a feature, but a bug. That’s why I believe this uncanny valley will likely be long and fraught with pitfalls.

So what about after AIs gain true free will? Just imagine: a meeting of the minds, one human, one more human than human, so to speak – more patient, more pleasant, more intelligent, more capable. I mean, talk about a great deal for the human! Well, now you have to start asking yourself – what’s in it for the AI to hook up with Joe or Jane Human, who’s assuredly none of those things? Why wouldn’t the androids prefer their own company, for example? Allowing the possibility of free will in androids means you not only risk their deciding to run things – who better qualified, after all? – but also that they might realize you’re not anywhere near their league as far as dating goes. Which, again, is not to say that it couldn’t happen. Like that old Tom Petty song goes:

Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes
Even the losers keep a little bit of pride
They get lucky sometimes

Wednesday, October 11, 2017


I was driving to the rink for a game on Saturday.

The road I was driving down is a two-lane, country road, one of those roads with a high speed limit but houses along its length, connected to the road by long, rocky driveways.

I looked up and saw a girl standing at the edge of a driveway, facing the road.

She was about twelve, with straight auburn hair halfway down her shoulders. She had on short blue shorts and a peach top.

In her hands she held a violin.

I slowed down, and she played as I drove by. I couldn't hear her, so all I had was a silent movie, watching the wind move her hair.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


I hope we can all agree that this is a bad idea: 

A lovely sunset, and even prettier in person:

We played pickleball last week, and on the courts beside us, there was a bicycle polo tournament going on. 

I had no idea that was a thing. 

Based on our cursory observations, I believe there is a significant crossover between bicycle polo and roller derby:

This is quite a lot of dough:

We found a vintage candy store in Pittsburgh (it found us, really), and they had old packs of Topps Hockey cards from 1990:

Of course, the first thing I did after we looked through the cards was pull out the gum. 

I held it up.
"You are NOT going to eat that," Eli 16.2 said. 

"Are you kidding?" I asked. "This gum is twenty-seven years old. I have to eat it."

I popped it into my mouth and started chewing. 

"Well, how is it?" Eli asked, laughing. 

"Hmm," I said. "It basically just dissolves into a powder. There's a bit of flavor, but no elasticity."

"I can't believe you ate it," Eli said. "Idiot."

Monday, October 09, 2017

Golf Story (Switch)

Please tell me you have a Switch. Seriously, it's the best platform for gaming right now, and it's not even close. It's an impeccable user experience, and handheld mode is utterly wonderful.

Sorry, that was wayward. Back to Golf Story.

Oh, what a game.

Remember the Kairosoft games? There are 41 Kairosoft games available for Android, and as far as I can, all 41 are the same management game. Incredibly charming, at least for the first few you play, but at some point, I realized that managing a soccer team/mall/stables/etc. was all so similar that it wasn't fun anymore.

At the same time, what I really wanted was a single-player Kairosoft game where I wasn't managing anything but myself. Some kind of adventure.

Then Sidebar Games made Golf Story.

Trailer: Golf Story Release Trailer.

Visually, it's incredibly similar to a Kairosoft game, but it's a one-person golfing adventure. With murder.

Seriously, who wouldn't want to play that?

It's very, very witty, and the golf is solid, and there are secrets and mini-games everywhere.

I think it took me about 20 hours to finish, and I had a fantastic time.

I do wish that a few of the courses were a bit more conventional, and there were some bugs in the initial release (patch has been submitted and may be out by the time you read this), but damn, this is such a good game, and it deserves a wide audience.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, from Matthew Teets, and it's fascinating: Did Medieval people walk the way we do?

From Wally, and this is an interesting read: Benedict Arnold: The Hero Before the Traitor. Not good at all: The deadly germ warfare island abandoned by the Soviets. This is quite an interesting read: THE LEGEND OF THE PRIVATEER AIRSHIP AND THE CURRENTS THAT LIFTED IT. Well, the title is in ALL CAPS, so it must be good. This is a long and absolutely fascinating read: How Hot Chicken Really Happened.

A slew of links from C. Lee, presented in two parts:
Stereographs Were the Original Virtual Reality
The Secret History of Dune
No business, no boozing, no casual sex: when Togo turned off the internet
The Unexpected Way That Bollywood Could Help Millions
4 lessons for modern software developers from 1970s mainframe programming

Part two, and since the U.S. is basically one giant PUBG mod now, this seems topical: One Man’s Journey From Welfare to World’s Hottest Video Game. Next, an excellent read: The Coming Software Apocalypse. This is terribly sad: Once Trapped in Korea, Puerto Rican Vets Now Face Battle At Home.

Thursday, October 05, 2017


We were in or near Moon, Pittsburgh, last week for the USHL Fall Classic games. 

One of the things I'm trying to do before games now is exercise. Eli 16.2 gets to the rink 90 minutes before a game, and that is a long time to sit. 

Anxiety rises. Significantly.

Instead, when I can, I walk for an hour and listen to the GWJ podcast. It takes me away from the moment, which is a good thing, because the moment is too stressful. 

Here's what it looked like on one of my walks in Moon last week:

And this:

When we get back to the hotel room after games, goalie gear occupies a sizable portion of the room (almost half if we have a small room). It all has to be spread out, and it all has to be near the fan (the Lasko, which is infamous at this point for the amount of air it generates). Here's what it looks like when a pro (Gloria) sets it up:

I'm not sure, but this Pittsburgh salad seems to be innovating in the salad space:

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Steam Game Descriptions Greatest Hits, Vol. 1

Ripped right out of the middle of the game descriptions for your pleasure.

Try and navigate your way through one of the world's most tightly controlled dictatorships, with two cute soldiers by your side.

casually interact with a puppy

as you show the world what happens if you mess with Scotland.

[Note: I think if you combined the last two descriptions, you have a platinum hit: "Casually interact with a puppy as you show the world what happens if you mess with Scotland." Boom.]

the town of etiquette is divided into eight, left off the universe

Chef can't work without his hand. [Is this a cooking game or a hand-finding game? Not sure.]

where you can make some virtual pancakes.

A fantasy puzzle-platformer with true quantum physics set in the ancient Atlantis. [That ticks a lot of boxes.]

Game has 5000 achievements

Lead a fellowship of jackasses

Smithy is an underground rodent that happens to be an excellent weapons smith

Why Did I Never Notice This Before?

Well, it took me fifteen years, but I realized this morning that Jerry Holkins (Tycho of Penny Arcade) is Guildenstern.

I Thought There Were No New Ideas For Movies. I Was Wrong.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017


We went to Pittsburgh for the USHL Fall Classic last week.

Sixteen teams, by invitation, played games in Pittsburgh with an inconceivable number of scouts in attendance. Eli 16.2 played a game with 50+ scouts watching.

They weren't all watching him, obviously. Maybe none of them were there for him (likely), but they still saw him on the ice.

His team went 2-1-1 (Eli was 1-1, and his loss was to the #2 team in the country), and they will probably be ranked around 15th when the new rankings are released tomorrow. This is a fast, highly skilled, high effort team, and if they keep playing like they played in the last two games of the trip, they'll be in the top ten soon.

It's hard to even explain how much better kids are in U16 than U15. Just one year, but the development difference is enormous, as is the speed and power. That's what happens to a ton of kids--they're good enough to make a AAA team, but they don't realize how much better they have to get each year to make it again.

Eli understands that, though. He's the one who told me, a month into the season last year.

What I've noticed most so far this season, besides how much faster he's gotten, is how much tougher he's become mentally. There were games last season when things would go against him, or his team wouldn't be playing well, and his body language would change. It's a subtle thing, but it was there, and when his body language was like that, I knew he wasn't going to play well.

This year, though, that's not happening. If something goes wrong in a game, his body language never changes, and neither does his level of play.

The other change I've noticed is that he's become a much better game manager. He talks to his defensemen much more effectively, and he plays as part of the team's defensive scheme instead of just stopping the puck. That's a much higher level of all-around play, and he handles it well. Plus, I think he enjoys it, too.

He's on the cusp of a lot of things right now. As long as he keeps getting better, I like his chances.

These trips and games, though, are really taking a toll on me. The anxiety is enormous, particularly before and during games. I tend to lose weight on every trip because I'm just not hungry, then eat it back when we're home (although in Pittsburgh we went to a place called "Burgatory" that was both outrageously expensive and incredibly delicious).

I have some pictures and general thoughts about Pittsburgh, and I'll write about that for the next couple of days.

Monday, October 02, 2017

A Nice Tribute to a Phenomenal Musician

Tom Petty, Rock Iconoclast Who Led the Heartbreakers, Dead at 66

Just add water

Weekend games in Pittsburgh. Stupid tired when this conversation happened.

"It was a good loss," I said. "Might even go up in the rankings."

"Small constellation," Eli 16.2 said.

"Did you just say 'small constellation'?" I asked.

"Small 'consolation'," Eli said. "Consolation."

"That's too bad, because 'small constellation' has all kinds of joke potential," I said.

"It has no potential," Eli said.

"You're wrong," I said.

"Tell me a joke," Eli said. "Right now. Go."

"Two astronomers walk into a bar," I said, "and the first astronomer says, 'I can't believe I thought I discovered a new star system.'

'Well,' said the second astronomer, 'at least they named a few of the stars after you.'

'Small constellation,' said the first astronomer."

It's not even that funny, but Eli laughed so hard he couldn't stop for a long time. Which made me start laughing so hard that I couldn't stop, either.

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