Sunday Morning Reading Material: Fourth Sunday in April 2011: Portal Two Passover Easter

It’s Sunday. Sundays are remembering all the poor firstborn males of Egypt who were sacrificed so that the ancient Jews could be freed. Alternately, it is for remembering the death and resurrection of a man who was also a god who died so that all of humanity might be free. Alternately, it’s for wondering why people make such a fuss about a holy day that can’t really be holy because it’s not on a Friday. Alternately again: it could just be for grabbing an excuse to visit with the family. Or in my case: working.

This week: Thailand and Cambodia had a militarized border dispute- the Thai prime minister is vowing to back their army. Abu Dhabi launched it’s first satellite. Also also: a bunch of fucking bicyclists got upset because they were asked to please stop slamming into pedestrians while commuting over the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the biggest problems a journalist can face is that of “access”. In order for a journalist to get a story, they need to talk to the people who have the information they need. This doesn’t come free. Sometimes the price being requested is monetary (legitimate news organizations will fire people who pay sources.), sometimes it’s the opportunity for the source to attack their enemies, and sometimes the price being demanded is the chance to shape the story to be most flattering to said source. A journalist must walk a very fine line between being biased on one hand, and being a stenographer for salespeople (and other liars) on the other. Games journalism is a curious beast, with it’s own set of rules and pitfalls.

If a democracy is to survive, power must be inherently untrusted. A journalist’s job is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”– to keep watch over power and never, ever trust it. Ever. If a tomb opens Sunday morning, and a pair of journalists are there to see Jesus Christ rising from the dead, they damned well better ask to see the holes in his wrists. The “good news” they print should be that those holes have been accounted for. Having said all that, can anyone tell me why Philippa Thomas has not been vilified and fired? There is no such thing- ever- as “off the record” when a journalist is listening.

This is an amazing story about the triumph of capitalism, and multiculturalism.

If it were proved in a court of law that a company was selling a product it knew could be deadly, what should the consequence be? What if it were food? A company was selling food they suspected could cause permanent injury or death? What if they refused to consult the relevant experts because they didn’t care enough? In America, given a fact pattern like that, we laugh at the victim, and make an old woman the butt of a thousand national jokes. Yes. We laugh at the victim. Which brings up a final question: what is wrong with America?

One of the weirder aspects to American society is that our tax rates can reach upward of 50%– but almost no one actually pays that. The effective tax rate is about 19%, on average. A “flat tax” won’t make our tax system any simpler– charging everyone the same 19% would simply keep things at the same regressive state they are currently. If we want to simplify our tax code, we should get rid of all the various deductions that have crept in. Why should the government care if people buy their home or rent it?

It probably comes as no surprise that, while in college, I was on my school’s debate team. We were alright. It wouldn’t actually serve any higher purpose if we showered intellectual competitions with the same pomp and praise as we do physical ones. It would, however, be somewhat awesome.

I am the Elf your Dwarf could smell like.

About 100,000 years ago, human beings climbed to the top of the food chain by using our mastery of memetic exchange. Other critters had to rely on the slow ravages of biological evolution to enable their adaptation– we humans could invent, discover, and (most importantly) share new information. It is therefore fascinating to me that humanity is capable of losing technology. The Greeks had working steam engines. The Chinese abandoned the printing press. The Russians used to be the finest leather workers in the world. No one currently remembers how they did it. The instructions didn’t survive. This is one of the things I fear about Digital Rights Management tools, and the current Intellectual property regime.

What would Sunday be without a Comics section? Here’s XKCD. Here’s Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

More of my fears? Congress basically sucks at doing things. It took about a hundred years to create anti-lynching laws, nearly 70 to get Universal Healthcare, and congress can’t even seem to declare war when we start sending troops around the world to kill in the name of the United States. This problem seems to be getting worse, and the solution is to let more powers devolve to the Executive branch. Much as I hate the Citizens United ruling, and much as I want congress to have overturned it, executives simply shouldn’t be making law. That’s not their function. That’s the path towards dictatorship.

Musical Interlude.

A (now Ex) girlfriend once suggested that I ditch my OK Cupid profile. I never visit the thing, and it’s an annoyance to have to delete their weekly email. Yet I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. At base, OK Cupid is run by data nerds, and dammit I want to be part of their experiment. Anyone who doesn’t really get that about me is not going to last long as my partner.

Some data may be useful, but I do question the methods by which it is collected.

San Francisco is beautiful.

Class warfare. I write about it on this blog. A lot. Sorry about that. We tend to think of this as the big stuff. Tax cuts for the Rich paid for by service cuts to everyone else! Strikes! The bosses murdering people to break strikes! Sometimes, though, it looks a lot different. Sometimes it looks a lot like… Dr. Horrible. No, seriously. Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog was an attempt by labor to own the means of production. Make a note here: it was a huge success. And it looks like they’re doing a sequel.

It’s the holiest day in the Christian calendar, so I’ll mention one of the more interesting parts of their theology: the exhortation to visit those in prison. It is explicitly stated that a failure to visit people in prison is worth a direct ticket to hell. The context for that visit is also worth noting: people should be visited because being in prison sucks, and it’s nice to have people visit. This is all rather tangential to the think: American cops sure do seem to generate a lot of false confessions.

Musical Interlude.

People talk about doing “back end work” on websites, web hosting, and spider webs. I know that a lot of that sort of work involves typing in funny, made up languages that aren’t Klingon. Until now, though, I didn’t know exactly what was going on.

Portal two came out this week, and the only things I’ve done since then have been working, playing Portal 2, sleeping, and writing this post. The game is amazing, and involve a whole lot of physics bending puzzles. The writing, too is top notch. I’m probably going to go into more detail in a later post.

One of the more interesting ways that people are racist is by ascribing to a certain racial category characteristics that are common to humanity in general. Once a culture decides that a “race” has a certain characteristic, people tend to notice the confirming examples, and ignore the examples which fail to confirm the bias. Add in some lazy screen writing, and viola! perpetual motion racism.

Let’s pause for a moment and take a moment of silence for the inventor of the Cartridge-based video game console.

If you only read one link:

Approximately one third of all the world’s humans are Christian. Today is the holiest day on their calendar. That makes it worth reflecting a bit on what the story of Easter means. Easter is, perhaps, not about Sunday, but about the day before. I’m not going to say much here. I’m going to let Fred Clark do the talking.

This week’s theme has been Easter Sunday. So in the comments, let us know what holy day you find most interesting. Perhaps that’s a little too on the nose.

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One Response to “Sunday Morning Reading Material: Fourth Sunday in April 2011: Portal Two Passover Easter”

  1. Oh. Charts about sex? #Swoon.
    Also I am highly amused that nerdy + rough sex go together so well. Additionally, I’m glad that I’ve grown to like exercise more.

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