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Sunday Morning Reading Material Second Sunday in January 2012- A Month Dedicated to My Cat Edition

It’s Sunday Morning. Sundays are for Ninjas. Sundays are for blessing universal plugs. Sundays are for going to work and trying not to look at every customer as if they were a coin block in a Mario game.

This week: the US economy showed signs that it might someday be able to take itself off the critical list. This week the Republican Party held a caucus in one of the corn states. This week everyone thought that caucus sounded more like male genitalia than a mountain range in Russia. This week, manufactures of consumer electronics got together to show off the stuff you won’t be buying in 2012.

The Nation is the closest thing America has to a mainstream Communist magazine. So when it decided to ask former Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev if the world is safer without the Soviet Union, we shouldn’t be shocked that he answers “no”. He’s wrong. There’s empirical data that he’s wrong. I think he know’s he’s wrong- he consistently confuses his own (laudable) decision not to crush the East German, Hungarian and Czechoslovakian democracy movements as evidence that the Soviet Union was inherently peaceful. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting take by one of history’s key actors.

I really need an irony mark. I may have to learn the unicode.

One of the great features of Science Fiction (and fantasy) is that it enlarges contemporary mores, memories, and memes to the point where they are more easily viewable. When Bioware, for instance, set out to create non-human species they certainly didn’t think about the fact that they’d be creating a perfect example of women being the “second sex”. The fact that this was done both explicitly– and unintentionally– says volumes about the way contemporary society has failed to understand what feminism means.

Risk is one of the great boardgames. It is- at least the version I’m most familiar with- a terrible game. Fortunately, it has been revamped and modernized. The thinking behind some of the changes reveal a great deal about how humans approach the world- and explain why I only enjoy zero sum interactions when they involve low-stakes things like games.

UN Hearing on AI Rights.

A CEO at a major American company got a minimum raise of 27/% last year. The most damming part of this story is that it shows the utter failure of the labor market. American CEOs simply have not added at least 27% value to their companies. They cannot each have performed at least 27% better than any other conceivable person would have in their role. Stockholders at publicly traded companies should do themselves a favor and tell their CEOs to either take a paycut or find a new job. I’m guessing that most CFOs and CSOs would love to get a title bump for next christmas.

I don’t have much to say about this, other than to be incredulous that citizens can be compelled to turn over keys to locks which hide evidence that can be used against them.

I like to play a game with my friends and acquaintances. It’s a simple one, and I win whenever they look at me and say “I shouldn’t have told you that” in their best Hagrid voice. I’m very responsible with the information I collect that way- I never use it for anything at all. Also, Protip: a wave and a friendly smile will get someone into damned near any building.

A coworker of mine was recently telling me that he’s not very conservative- after all, he’s not against gay marriage or anything. To a large degree, I sympathize with his position. I can’t help but think, though, that there’s a better way. The challenge is to not be on the tolerance curve at all. I make this commitment now: as soon as robots meaningfully ask for equal rights, I’ll be in favor of them.

I have a lot of sympathy for the idea that developer expectation of post-release patching has done a great deal of damage to gaming culture. I’m not really sure that gets to the heart of why games are released in a “broken” state. I’d probably agree with it more if I saw the majority of games getting several non-DLC patches across the first 6 months after release. I think it has much more to do with the short term sales mentality. The significant majority of sales are being done in the first week after launch- well before gamers start noticing game-killing bugs. Add to that a games review culture that refuses to talk about anything but the most devastating bugs, and publishers simply have few incentives to spend the money to make games perfect on release.

This list of the most pirated games of 2011 seems to track fairly well with the most-played list. Perhaps most interesting: each of these games launched with a pretty strict DRM protocol. In fact: the Wii and Xbox360 require an entire special (and expensive) piece of hardware in order to use any software at all. I think the lesson is to put less energy into DRM and more into customer service.

President Obama’s EPA released a set of guidelines which will keep Americans much healthier than before. The American energy sector was allowed to create an annual $90 billion worth of pain and suffering to the American people. That’s $90 billion that we didn’t know was happening, couldn’t keep ourselves safe from, and didn’t have any control over. Naturally conservatives are furious that Obama is interfering with private enterprise.

On at least one major TV network, Cops can’t ever be wrong.

One of the interesting things about my ADD medication is that it doubles as an anti-depressant. Since I’m prone to depression, this is fantastic news. Depression is a very misunderstood phenomenon. It’s not simply “sad”, or “very sad”- for me it manifests as intense feelings of worthlessness. I don’t simply make mistakes when depressed- every time my shoelaces come untied I feel overwhelmed by the idea that I’m not quite human.

I’m looking forward to playing DOTA 2 like whoa. Yes, even the confusion and sucking.

The Sims and Sex. No, wait. Not like that. Let me try again: the Sims and human existence. Christ that sounds pretentious. Let me try again. Games, when they’re well made, give us a chance to be versions of ourselves we’d not otherwise get to try. Even the mundane tasks of living can be made interesting when the right set of incentives are created. The fact that the Sims can capture all the trepidation and excitement of a first kiss tells us that it is great art.

If you click just one link:

Learn how free Parking is destroying your life.

This week’s theme was video games and the human condition. In the comments section, let me know your Xbox Live ID, so I can add you. :)