Children

When babies are born, they’re a whole lot of cute, and we grown ups get lots of good feelings for engaging them. But soon after, babies quickly become an annoyance and too much responsibility for a single parent.

This has presented me with an anthropological quandary: When pre-historical Mom was overwhelmed with her poopy, hungry, colicky, wheezing, red-faced wailing, no-longer-cute-at-all infant, what stopped her from drowning the tot in the nearby stream? Parenting would cease to be fun within the first year, and while parent-child love can go a long way, it doesn’t counter the magnitude of outrage and frustration that an infant can compel. What stopped moms from deciding this parasitic abomination was A Totally Bad Idea and calling it quits early?

To be fair, children before the modern age uncommonly reached majority. Often child-death statistics were very grim. Seven-in-eight kids would succumb to famine, plague and elements during typical eras. In harsh eras, that number could climb to fourteen-in-fifteen children who’d never see adulthood. I’m sure moms had to work overtime to keep that number as low as it was, let alone avoid the temptation to add to these numbers with river drownings. It was generally just a matter of time before most tots met their unfortunate ends, and a child that grew to adulthood was a proud, glorious thing, indeed.

Meanwhile there are also legends aplenty of children being swapped out with fairy changelings who would function as brood parasites working the parents for all their toil and nurturing until the those parents perished from exhaustion. The only thing for it was to trick such creatures into revealing themselves before disposing of them, say, in fire.

How did our species survive? How is it that we didn’t go extinct tens of thousands of years ago from a pandemic of river-drownings by mothers who’d just had enough? I don’t know.

These days, of course, we have laws against river-drownings of infants, though one could get away with quite a lot of accidents until very recently. During my childhood in the 1970s and 1980s, parents were given a lot of latitude regarding how they raised their kids. It was poor form to call Children’s Welfare Services even over chronic symptoms of abuse, or repeated sounds of fights. The social norm was a hands-off it’s-not-my-business attitude.

These days, we’re quicker to intervene, and less inclined to trust parents with the well-being of their progeny. But also, all fifty states now have legal safe-surrender-sites. Infanticide and abandonment are still problems, sharply reduced thanks to safe-surrender. But there isn’t a line at the safe-surrender service window. And I’d think there would be.

Getting more specific, I spent quality time with my grandson, yesterday. Personally, I like my quality time with very young people in short bursts, say, enough time to repair a Transformer (the line of toys, not the electrical component) but illness and prior engagements conspired to leave my grandson in my custody for over an hour.

He was not poorly behaved. But he needed a lot of attention and a lot of focus, and that level of demand was exhausting. And he certainly didn’t comprehend the threshold where harmless play ended and destructive rascality began. In trying to set him up a movie, I was connecting together a bit of tech. And he wouldn’t stop meddling. I was beside myself trying to stop him. Especially when he wouldn’t acknowledge no.

Frustration prevailed.

In my adventures trying to understand Ren, I found that I lose my temper about the time that he bites me and draws blood. My first impulse is to throttle the poor pooch (and he and I have since commiserated on the problem of having feelings that compel us to do things we later regret). The situation with my grandson was escalating to where it might have gotten dramatic. But thanks to my experience with Ren, I am aware of my potential for violence and I wanted to de-escalate the situation before that was a risk.

This, incidentally, is an example of mindfulness, what is a simpler, more practical tool version of cognitive behavioral therapy, where the point is to intercept compulsive unwanted behavior by avoiding or changing the circumstances that lead to it. As an infant, we start the process of delineating those points where we end and the rest of the universe begins. At first our lessons concern our physical limits. But this process continues through the rest of our lives, and as an adult we learn both how to avoid circumstances in which we will be compelled to behave badly, and how to encourage circumstances in which we will be encouraged to behave well.

But getting back to my grandson and I, fortunately my sweetheart arrived in time to relieve me. And to be fair, he was doing that hyper wound-up thing that little boys do right before they poop-out and collapse for naptime. We had taken a walk to the playground and around the complex, and that probably burned off some of the lad’s excess pent-up energy. All might have ended well without intervention, if he was only a few minutes from falling over.

But I’m used to relating to people to whom I can say no and getting some kind of acknowledgement. And when that doesn’t happen it feels hostile and dangerous. A problem I have with children, it appears, is they don’t behave like adults. Granted, many adults and adult institutions don’t either.

And, then again, my tolerance for those people is also accordingly short.

Advertisements

Hitman: Judo Chop

I’ve been playing a lot of Hitman: Absolution, and as such, I may gush and gripe about it for a few blog posts. As a warning, I may some spoil some minor details about the game.

My most recent adventures as Agent 47 in a late level had him sneaking around a landmine test facility. I was supposed to murder one Dr. Marcus Green landmine designer and hater of pigs (as in literal swine). Dr. Green’s elation was conspicuously similar to that of movie-director Andy Zhen in Saints Row, The Third (both are voiced by Yuri Lowenthal), but I digress.

Magic Bullet Hypothesis

After infiltrating the landmine testing facility 47 took a wrong turn and encountered Dr. Green face to face. I tried to judo chop (see below) the good doctor only to break into combatant melee. Up to this point he was portrayed as a non-combatant, if a designated target, and in confusion 47 deflected his blows while pondering this new state of hand-to-hand combat in which I had to either kill the doctor, or get killed, myself. My delay provided enough time for alert guards to gather around and start firing their guns into the melee.

Sadly, the developers hadn’t accounted for friendly fire. The horror of this was realized in full during an earlier level in which 47 was spotted by SWAT guys in a crowded subway, and they gleefully emptied their clips into the dense crowd like bad movie Nazis (or bad movie Soviets, depending on the era). The bullets passed through the crowd without harm taking down 47. Back at the lab, the guards, just as gleefully, shot into the ensuing melee between Dr. Green and 47. Green was immune to the bullets and 47 perished.

Still, bad optics for the next-day morning paper.

Judo Chop Technique

Judo Chop technique is explained by The Urban Dictionary. Wikipedia redirects to knife hand technique, which it explains thoroughly. But this is at best an approximation, and is only distantly related to Judo, let alone Judo Chop. I believe twenty-first century Judo Chop technique originated with Austin Powers, but its identification with Hitman is a Northern-Lionism. At any rate Judo Chop is a hero’s ability to take down another man-sized target with a single blow, and is the more aggressive version of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch (In fact, the nerve pinch was invented by Leonard Nimoy as he felt Judo Chop was out of character.)

In Hitman 2016 I believe (am not sure) that 47’s judo-chop capabilities are fully realized That is, 47 can punch out anyone with a single blow if he’s willing to forgo silence to do so. He still has to use a very pythonesque constricting chokehold method to KO someone silently. In Absolution, 47’s Judo Chop technique only works on non-combatant civilians. Combatants such as guards or mooks require a second takedown strike that uses a QTE action (press the designated key to attack, or any other key to get punched). This can be condensed by having an in-hand object or by Bonetti’s form (or is it Agrippa?), attacking the target on a flight of stairs.

In Hitman: Blood Money, 47’s Judo Chop was only in its formative stage (which is to say I was mashing on the punch button wishing there was a better way to pacify the guy wearing my disguise). But that was during 47’s younger years, when he felt less like a veteran assassin and more like a young goon who was stumbling around, wearing an old goon’s fancy suit.

KOs IRL

They don’t work.

One of the complex problems of human conflict resolution in the real world comes from the current lack of any consistent safe effective means to render belligerents unconscious. (More accurately, rendered immobile and incapable of action, preferably not suffering.)

In fictional media, a problematic person can be taken down by a knock to the head, a choke hold, some kinds of electric zaps or a fast-acting one-size-fits-all tranquilizer dart. Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat future not only featured a safe, fast, effective knock-out gas, but a revival gas once he rendered his target to a safe place. No waiting for natural recovery!

In reality all of our takedown methods suffer from inconsistency. Some victims shrug off a knock to the head or a tranq dart while others are rendered thoroughly brain damaged or dead-as-a-doornail, which renders moot the whole point of going non-lethal. This truth was horribly realized during the 2002 hostage crisis at the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow. After a two day stalemate during the seige, Russian law enforcement deployed knockout gas in the theater’s ventilation system. (As of this post, the specific incapacitation agent has not been officially revealed.) The intent was to knock out everyone, hostages and suspects. As a result, about 130 hostages perished from the gas out of 850 total. (All 40 identified terrorists were killed while unconscious.)

This is to say, in the real world, technical pacifism, in which a soldier or guardian uses only non-lethal attacks, is impossible. Even our general anesthetics come with a significant risk that the patient won’t successfully recover.

This is at least so far. In 2017 development continues on ways to incapacitate folks without killing them for law enforcement purposes. Most of our less-lethal weapons (which are still too inconsistent to be non-lethal) aim more towards wrecking the target’s day than knocking him out, focusing on making him hurt too much to be functional, let alone a threat. Sadly, agony isn’t quiet enough for infiltrators, who have to resort to lethal methods when evasion fails to work.

For a committed killer like 47 it means things get messy sooner. But for a no-kill purist like Batman, he would not only have a body count, but a significant one that neither his lawyers nor his conscience could explain away.

Hitman: Scoring

Over the course of the Christmas holiday, I’ve been playing a lot of Hitman: Absolution, and as such, I may gush and gripe about it for a few blog posts. As a warning, I may some spoil some minor details about the game, though so far I haven’t encountered a major plot point worth not spoiling (yet). It’s an old game with a story chock full of grindhouse tropes and spy tropes, and to anyone who is familiar with those, and with stealth action games Absolution is all comfortable yet not groundbreaking territory.

I get obsessed with points in Hitman: Absolution, partly because it’s visible in the upper left hand corner at all times, and any action that changes that score raises a flag, and the score roles to its new sum. Knock a guy out? -150 points for house 47! Hide the body? +150 points! Killing is -225, but a headshot or a silent kill is +75, so 47 can dispatch all the mooks he wants so long as he does so with panache and hides the body afterwards.

Scoring became a particular issue in the level Descent in the chapter Dexter Industries. The level’s par — the minimum score 47 needs to earn the new skill upgrade — is above the victory score for completing the level (before penalties). This means to get it, 47 has to find and acquire the evidence (the secret, worth 1500 points), and then get to the end of the level unseen (being spotted the first time is -1500 points).

Not being seen is harder than I anticipated. If someone sees 47 an instant before 47 kills them, that’s a spot, and the resulting penalty. If 47 shoots at someone outside the range of his Silverballers, that’s also a spot. If participants in the briefing are attacked by surprise from an unseen vantage before the briefing is over, that’s a spot. A mistimed takedown turns into a sucker punch? That’s a spot. Having run through the level multiple times, I encountered a surprisingly large number of ways 47 can be penalized for being spotted, many of which failed to make sense in context. It proved to be rather frustrating.

To be fair, I was forgoing disguises for a suit run. (Suit run: wearing 47’s funeral-ready suit. No disguises.) Suit runs of a chapter’s levels have to be played sequentially. Ended a level in disguise? You’ll begin the next level in that same disguise. Suit-running all the levels in a chapter provides a bonus for the level scores and chapter scores. (Curiously, 47 gets a similar bonus by donning each of the available disguises through the chapter, once. Each level is designed for trying various strategies over multiple plays through. And these bonuses are there to encourage this.)

But then, the Descent level is glitched so that it’s very easy to not get full score. At its end, 47 has to activate a lever and hit a button to summon an elevator and climb in. Except that if he does it before getting the order to do so, he doesn’t get the points for having done it, making for a 7000 point difference. 47 has to reach the bottom of the level (unseen and having gotten the evidence) then wait a while for the order to start the power, and then hit the buttons in sequence. As a result the national and world averages for this level’s score is without those 7000 points necessary to earn the skill.

For me pragmatism prevailed. I don’t like killing, but knocking out targets 47 couldn’t evade proved to be too slow and too visible and too easy to mistime (at which point 47 was in a fist fight and not silent at all). His piano-wire garrote, however, solved all these problems, being faster, deadlier and getting the silent-kill bonus. I ceased to concern myself with the lives and families of these victims, because dangit, I want my points and my skill. Similarly, throwable knives assured a quiet headshot where guns did not, and a screwdriver counted. By the end of my run, 47s screwdriver was very blooded.

I suppose this is closer to the theme of the game. Thief and Splinter Cell specifically discourage killing, where in this game the grindhouse theme of it indicates bad men are backed by bad mooks, and they all need to be purged from this earth.

Eventually I found a workaround for Descent. It turns out that objects and people reset themselves whenever you reload a level, even at a last checkpoint (your score and penalties sums still carry on) meaning I could steal the evidence, save a checkpoint and steal it again, and have enough points to get my nifty skill bonus. I’ve talked about cheating before, and using exploits might count (depending on the game, the exploit and the cheater). The topic of game difficulty (and how our views have changed over eras) has covered this before: In 1988, if the game is too hard, it’s because the player sucks. In 2008, if the game is too hard, it’s because the game was poorly implemented. In the case of the Descent level in Absolution, the glitches and inconsistent rules for getting spotted make it difficult to get it right on the first run-through, even for a skilled Hitman veteran. Using the double-evidence exploit it can be done easily, or without it, with a lot of luck and caution.

The design of the Hitman series is about exploring the possibilities of any given level, often with comedic results. But the scoring system in Absolution rewards meticulous but mediocre play over creativity. The latter is what 47 does after paying his proverbial dues.

And the thing is, paying dues by doing a pure stealth run — at least regarding the Descent level of the Dexter Industries chapter — is not fun.

Sub Log: Violence In Context

Check In: I’m still adrift (read: depressed) as per before. I’ve been developing a series of articles for Christmas, but the topic is heavy and heavy gets overwhelming fast. This piece is about a video game and self-discovery in games. It’s about as light as I do. I hope to get the bigger project done by Christmas. In the meantime, I’m playing a lot of Subnautica

Subnautica continues to be a favorite game. It’s pretty fun with the singular exception of being occasionally unable to find the tech or resource I need right now, which is not too often.

As the story goes, you’re a survivor from a starship accident. Your escape pod zooms away from the ship as it breaks apart. The pod then lands on a water world (ocean as far as the eye can see in all directions). In a grand effort to survive and possibly escape, you have to forage for food, build a sea base, gather resources, fight predators, search wreckage for technology and so on.

I’ve talked before about how Subnautica isn’t a particularly shooty game. It’s plenty violent and fraught with dangers. And also to be fair, much of the violence goes almost unnoticed — even by the developers — specifically fishing for sustenance. I consume a lot of fish.

Normally, it’s a matter of plucking them from the water and then running them through the printer. Later on a hot-knife is available that cooks a fish as you stab it. That is when the whole fishing thing actually starts feeling violent.

Far more violent, though, is is the matter of fending off bigger fauna. Early on, it’s tempting to fight Stalkers. When I wasn’t used to them they were annoyingly persistent. Stalkers maneuver quickly and bite back. I often ended up on the losing end of an altercation.

But then, Stalkers can be tamed (by feeding them) or generally avoided. Once I get the underwater scooter (an early-game mobility-enhancement) I could just zip away when one gets too frisky. While in the mini-sub Stalkers just bounce off the hull and I laugh at them.

Bonesharks are another matter. They’ll aggressively attack the sub, and will do damage. And they swarm.

At one point I came in with my mini-submarine all tricked out with features, and while I was looking for quartz, I secluded my sub in a small cave. A pack of Bonesharks ignored me and sniffed out my sub and took it apart, leaving me a dire distance away from air, and having to build my sub all anew.

To quote Bugs Bunny, of course you realize, this means war.

It turns out Bonesharks are less evasive than Stalkers. Taking on a Stalker with a knife, I might only get a couple of swipes in before it whipped around to chomp back. Bonesharks don’t turn as sharply and would only scurry away. I’d have time to repair the damage to the sub. If the Boneshark came back (sometimes it would), I’d get a couple more cuts in, and possibly kill it.

Then I added the stasis gun into the equation. A stasis field would freeze the Boneshark in its tracks, making it susceptible to all the stabs I could give. At least five seconds worth. It was plenty enough to render Boneshark into a sinking corpse, or on occasion, a gently rising corpse.

I was soon leaving a trail of dead Boneshark corpses in my wake.

And feeling guilty about it. Steve Irwin echoes in my head Crikey, they’re just playin’! They don’t mean nothing by it! Maybe it’s the knifing, and maybe it’s that most of the time in Subnautica I avoid confrontation when I can. When I typically can just duck away or hide in my tin can, violence is stark in contrast.

Then again, I eat bunches of fish, and there’s very little struggle or consideration about it. I just sneak up behind them and boink! They’re in my inventory, and next I’m processing them into cooked (or cured) snacks. To these little fish, the day I caught them was the most important, most terrible day of their lives. But for me it was just a meal.

I suspect leviathans feel the same way when I cross into their domain.

Cat: Gone Quiet

If you are short of everything except enemy, you are in combat. — classic military idiom.

My search continues for absurdist meaning and useful purpose in an era when doom is likely and insignificance is palpable. I’ve written many segments and then paused to wonder if what I had to say had meaning in this new context. While this version of the paradigm takes decades rather than minutes, the story is the same: We are long on zombies and short on bullets, and without some deux-ex-machina, this is our last stand. Still, heroes fight the zombie hordes to the last bullet whether or not there’s a chance of a surprise gunship or the completion of a mass-zombie-dispelling ritual is imminent.

My thoughts lately:

Sisyphus as an absurdist figure is not as easy for me to identify with, let alone happy, contented Sisyphus. But Don Quixote de la Mancha certainly is, having wooed my fair share of Dulcineas and been bested by my share of windmills. Still, these days, I reckon myself more as a Sancho Panza often the one pointing out windmills from giants, through my lord is determined to do combat with them regardless.

And I grew up on Peanuts never recognizing this aspect of Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown fails at almost everything he does. The exemplar bit is his attempts to kick a foodball held by Lucy. She always pulls away at the last end, and he ends up on the ground saying good grief!. But he gets up and goes on. Sometimes he laments his frustration, but Linus reminds him the world did not end. Charlie Brown continues ever forward, ever on, unflinching, toward more adventures, including more footballs.

In my life:

My sweetheart’s business Christmas party was the weekend following Thanksgiving and we are both over-socialized. During the Thanksgiving weekend, her estranged father came back to de-strange (with a new wife beside him who was a tad over-eager to witness new relatives into the fold of her church). Then the Christmas party was a bit more chaotic than typical, with more miscommunications and service missteps. It was managed but not perfectly. So yeah, my sweetheart and I are exhausted of people and Christmas, at least for today. She more than I. Also, I’ve been lamenting Trump’s overuse of Christmas sentiments, reflections of the war on Christmas, a divisionist seasonal theme from Fox News. Lately, Trump’s been selling his tax scheme as a Christmas present to the American people. This is something like hosting gladiator games for the people and financing them by selling out the state’s grain reservoirs.

My sweetheart’s daughter in Indiana gave birth to a son today, after a complicated labor. So everyone’s happy for the new boy and relieved it’s over and everyone is alive and well. My own feelings are mixed: this is an era in which children are expensive and they get hurt when they realize what they cost to their parents (both monetarily and emotionally), and while I appreciate my grandson (the four-year-old local grandson) when he’s here, his mom is exhausted keeping up with the boy. There will be a point that he’ll be able to understand he was brought into a world that was not ideal for raising him, we will all have to reconcile that we’re trying our best regardless of imperfect circumstances.

Then I confront that the lives of these boys are going to be defined (if not cut short) when things get really bad in twenty years or so. In light of that, I’m following the advice of Detective William Somerset you spoil that kid any chance you get.

I’m also worried, considering the number of boys being born lately within zero or one degrees of separation from me at this time. As I pointed out, the time to be thinking about pulling our kids through puberty and their early sexuality is not when they’re already desperate for sex beyond all sensibilities of rationality or decency and they are considering assault or coercion (Yes, it drove me that crazy when I was a teen), but years before that, while they’re still cute and adorable. This is not to say parents have solutions available to them, but that doing nothing about it sets these boys in a direction toward joining the misogynistic legions of the manosphere that regard sex as a commodity one extracts from women like scream from children (ultimately by extractor). Changing culture starts with kids, and if we want to see sexuality in the US change to one that doesn’t involve coercion or aggression, we need to start changing it now.

As of today, my new tablet failed, or at least is not powering up. Fortunately it’s under warranty (multiple warranties, possibly) so it’s a matter of getting it replaced, the process of which I’ll begin tomorrow. But it means I don’t have a thing on which to read news when I eat my breakfast. This may be a good thing as I can use a break from news and disincentives to look at news. Speaking of which:

In news:

Kim Jong-un launched another ICBM, this time with the reach of all the United States, and news agencies are all astir about it once again. (Because why not incite panic among your readers if it means sweet, sweet clicks?) When Trump last attempted to smack talk / provoke Kim, what I wrote explained the situation well enough. Firstly, North Korea is probably many steps away from actually hitting the US with an ICBM. Perhaps we take for granted the engineering miracle of US missiles like the Polaris (which are accurate enough to deliver a pizza to a phone booth). But that’s actually really hard to do, and where the Soviet Union couldn’t figure it out, they would just use twenty or so missiles with big bombs to assure something hit the target. Even if Kim was able to get a missile (or three dozen), there’s the matter of the US ability to retaliate (which it could handily do with conventional weapons and still reduce North Korea to the paleolithic epoch. That is to say Kim would have to be a madman and surrounded by madmen before attacking the US or its allies might look like a good option. Doing so would kill all of the DPRK.

Roy Moore’s inappropriate behavior (including sexual harassment and assault) has led him to being accused of pedophilia. In nighttime television a pedophile jokes fly about when the subject of Roy Moore arises. And associating Moore with pedophilia makes pedophiles look bad.

In this case it’s not entirely a joke. Pedophiles typically live their entire lives without offending, often relying on alternative expressions of their kink such as lolicon and ageplay. And yes, while they may fantasize about acts that US society would consider unconscionable, people seem to not be adverse to people thinking about countless other unconscionable deeds, so long as these thoughts don’t compel into action. (e.g. Agatha Christie’s and my shared fascination with real-world poisons, hence her use of actual named toxins in her mystery fiction. Me, I just have a profound affection for tradecraft in general.) We Americans are just super squicky about sex and endangering kids.

There is the matter that pedophiles specifically fetishize pre-pubescent children. I’ll touch on this briefly: human men commonly find post-pubescent teenaged women hot — even though we now regard them as adolescent — much the way we find Olympic athletes hot: youth and health are optimal for breeding, so of course we find both sexy, doubly so in tandem. Dating underaged people (outside the threshold of Romeo and Juliet exceptions) is still illegal. Young people are often not emotionally developed enough to make clear-headed decisions about their lives and sexualities. But Moore actions make him a sexual predator (again, allegedly, but with convincing evidence, so far), and guilty of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault. Alabama may have its own terms for these crimes.

As a note, pedophilia has only been regarded as a problem since after the 1980s, after an incident that was based entirely off of false evidence (getting most of its evidence by Recovered-Memory Therapy, a since-debunked process of asking small children leading questions to get them to implicate suspects.) This era brought about the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) moral panic after the general fear rose that much of the world was controlled by Satanic Secret Societies (SSS). (Now, after half a century of religious right influence on our state, I half wish it was true. These notions became popular after The Exorcist (the 1973 film) and the following run of Satanism knock-off movies. The SRA scare lead less to child protections against actual abusers, but instead a crusade against pervs and gays that (allegedly) eroticized kids. This moral crusade also rallied against all things that might be devices by which Great Satan influenced our children.

Curiously, until the 1990s, actual sexual relationships with children, some to kids as young as nine-years-old, were entirely legal and endorsed by our legal system throughout much of the United States, so long as they were married first. So yes, we were more concerned that sex was licensed rather than whether or not it was abusive or coerced or that a child was bound to a contract without full knowledge or ability to consent. Only in the 1990s did child marriage become criminalized, and in some states judges can (and often still do) make exceptions.

Playing a game over Thanksgiving, I engaged in the following conversation about the card game Fluxx:

Family Member: Is this a zero-sum game?

Uriel: Yes. In this game only one player can win. In rare instances, circumstances occur in which nobody wins.

Family Member: Ah, just like socialism.

It was a barb that I am still trying to examine, since I have no particular skin regarding socialism (In the US we’ve socialized the military, many benefits for impoverished and disabled and in some counties utilities like water and power are socialized. Meanwhile most of our economy is capitalist) I hypothesize that while he was pinging he was a conservative, he was endorsing simplistic ideological generalization (e.g. socialism = bad, laissez-faire capitalism = good, vaccines = bad, guns = good) and endorsing the notion that we don’t need to bother understanding why we might take these axioms for granted, and that maybe we should not. It stung because it’s an attack on intellectualism.

At some point I may write further on one or more of these topics which have been (along with a dozen or so others) brewing in my head. For now, though, I still am stuck in a place of introspection, trying to consider what my values are, or should be, when the giants I tilt at may be windmills after all, when the zombies I fend off may get me anyway, and may perish on their own before claiming other victims. I still don’t know what to do with myself, and when I surface once again, I’m not sure where or even who I will be.

Edits: So yeah, as painful as it is, editing is a process, and I don’t have the patience to delay posting it when I reach the aw, fuck it threshold. That said, sometimes when I post blog pieces, they are unclear in places and chock full of grammar and even misspellings (now that we have numerous and amazing defenses against spelling eras.) As a result this is a work still in progress, but mostly done. Mostly.

Cat: Too Many Secrets

As would be expected, I am still depressed and still trying to sort out my trilemma from Monday. The plan is to taper down off caffeine again, over the course of two-weeks. It’ll give me time to be a lazy meat puddle and introspect. Besides which, I’m missing the old buzz and needing only a shot or two to get it.

A More Perfect Union

I discussed previously how I was impressed by our current analyses of First Past The Post voting and the side effects it has on government (which are observable today in the US), and this inspired me to look for other bugs in the system — ideology-neutral* changes we could make that would naturally result in better representation of the public by the government.

After the Trump election, I’ve been in damage control mode, which I don’t think has been more productive, though among my many rants about specific events, I was able to get across some of the several ideas that might make for better governance. Most of my notions never became an essay because I was writing about something else at the time. Others are kinda incomplete.

One of the things I will try to do in the near future is enshrine them here. That way when some future archeologist finds my work and is still dealing with government corruption and decadence problems, my ideas may still serve, much the way the scholars of Rome have informed modern philosophies.

I should clarify and disclaim: In 1945, Einstein reflected on the dropping of the atomic bomb and his contribution to that event. If only I had known he thought I should have become a watchmaker. I’m not Einstein. To be fair, Einstein wasn’t Einstein (in that way) either. If he hadn’t discovered relativity, eventually someone else would, maybe not in time for the end of WWII, but it would have happened, and someone probably would have dropped a couple of nukes before we decided this was a really bad idea and we should avoid using them. My ideas on how to build nations that hold together are not unique to me, and if I am doing anything unique, it’s juxtaposing ideas together so that they make a certain sort of sense. (Such as our objectification of actresses and our objectification of football players.) Nothing that I say is new, but is only expressed in one more way, by one more person.

Sunshine Laws

One incomplete idea that a nation should have crazy extreme sunshine laws. Air Force major reports a UFO? You’ll have the transcript tomorrow. A senator is writing up an abortion bill? The current version is available on his website. Arkansas woting machines are getting new software? A link on the government site will direct you to the code. Clinton and Trump both colluded with Russia? Any of us can look up their email history and see who said what to whom. There’s no executive privilege: state business is the people’s business.

Our government agencies are addicted to overclassification, which not only covers the butts of our officials, but also conceals their corruption. By keeping government action hidden, it doesn’t have to be explained to the public. It also allows for subversive activity that more serves the personal interests and intra-state political interests of our officials than it does the the interests of the public. Overclassification, insufficient oversight and obstruction to FOIA requests have lead to some really scary official policies (such as torture and mass-surveillance). It’s allowing the United States to turn monstrous in ways it couldn’t (at least without a fight) if these policies were forced into the public eye via extreme sunshine laws.

Granted, that would make all the states seem like Florida, where weird shit happens all the time. Some Floridians suspect that it’s not that Florida is where weird shit happens, but that sunshine laws assure that they get made public when they happen, which news agencies comb for and report. A greater concern is operational intelligence: where our military units are, and what they’re doing. But these can be often declassified in a matter of days or weeks after the fact. Our police would complain because their methods often rely on security through obscurity which causes problems by disallowing for public penetration testing also leaving the police open to espionage by organized crime.

But in this case, I don’t know everything, and while I can’t think of other reasons we might need to keep secrets, that isn’t to say they don’t exist. Hence I can’t fully endorse extreme sunshine laws, and I don’t know if endorsing such a thing is even possible. But if it is possible, it’s a thing government by the people needs to stay by the people.

* Curiously, some things that I imagined once-upon-a-time would totally not be ideologically neutral have become full on identity-flagging platform positions: Support for the US policy of Extrajudicial detention and torture of alleged enemy combatants (in violation of the Fifth Amendment as well as the Geneva Conventions) is now a GOP and conservative flag. Strict gun control (in violation of the second and ninth amendments) is now a DNC and progressive flag, even though it runs contrary to liberalism (that is, the preservation of liberty). Right now identities are more important than platforms, and voters are willing to condone atrocity when it targets political-identity enemies or is endorsed by identity leaders. Our politics are getting very culty.