Things Closer to Lobby 7 than Next House

The Z-Center
IS&T Help Desk
Shaw’s
MIT Medical
Rebecca’s Cafe
Multiple childcare centers
Tosci’s
Draper
The Wong Auditorium
SidPac
Several Novartis buildings
LarvNet
The Esplanade
Any building on MIT’s campus named “Sloan”
A magnet that wipes cards of someone standing ten feet away (several, actually)
The nearest 7-Eleven
The nearest wind tunnel
The nearest nuclear reactor
The nearest weather station
The nearest Microsoft building
The nearest T stop
Eastgate
The other end of the Infinite Corridor

Two Winters

The time-based line graph below shows how shatteringly warmer this winter was than last winter in Boston, MA. Each tick along the x-axis represents one day from Gregorian December 1 to Gregorian February 28, and for each of these days, the chart compares the high and low on that date this year to those on that date last year.

two_winters

Elements the Game: Page of All Unspecified and Scattered Stuff

I can’t seem to find a page out there with all the stats together. Might as well make this happen then.

Adrenaline Damage Data

Original Attack 1 Attack 2 Attack 3 Attack 4 Total Damage Extra Damage
1 1 1 1 1 4 3
2 2 2 2 2 8 6
3 3 3 3 3 12 9
4 4 3 2 9 5
5 5 4 2 11 6
6 6 4 2 12 6
7 7 5 3 15 8
8 8 6 3 17 9
9 9 3 12 3
10 10 4 14 4
11 11 4 15 4
12 12 4 16 4
13 13 5 18 5
14 14 5 19 5
15 15 5 20 5
16 16 16

Catapult Damage Data
Formula: \lceil\frac{100*HP}{100+HP}\rceil
Chart for Example Creature HPs

HP Damage
1 1
2 2
5 5
10 10
12 11
15 13
20 17
25 20
30 23
32 25
40 29
45 32
50 34
65 40
70 42

Continue reading “Elements the Game: Page of All Unspecified and Scattered Stuff”

The Significance and Impact of Beethoven

A while ago, one of my friends had a class where the question “What makes Beethoven a great composer?” came up. I think I’ll go cover this in length here.

Beethoven lived in a time of revolution in the European subcontinent (sidenote: calling Europe a continent is absurd). His life of only 56 years saw (and was at times directly affected by) the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the build-up to further revolutions to come. He approved of many of the transitions in political thought at the time (he originally named his 3rd Symphony the ‘Bonaparte’, until angrily tearing apart and rewriting the title page upon news that Napoleon has declared himself emperor), and often benefited from them. But reflections of the changes of his times can be seen not only in his life but also in his music.

The musical context of the beginning of Beethoven’s compositional career was the heart of the Classical Period, where Vienna has shed the fanciful and byzantine musical tenets of the Baroque Period, to have the musical world reflect ideas brought about in the Age of Reason: the new standards for quality music were that their melodies were simple and their forms well-structured, for music to be sensible and not needlessly flowery, for music to reach to all people rather than concentrate on the upper classes. This was the time of Haydn and Mozart. But the simplicities and structure of the Classical Period, although reflecting changes Beethoven may approve of, come short of being able to reflect the extremes of emotion. The Classical Period could keep a well-beating heart happy, but was no land for the heart in heart-stretching times. The ideals of good music in this time fell miserably short of a just depiction of epic heroism and devastating tragedy.

Beethoven’s life itself was a story of heroism and tragedy. His life, as well as the path of his music, followed the miserable choice of fate that the one sense, hearing, most important to him as a composer would slowly but surely vaporize, and his astonishing heroic struggle as a composer facing these odds to not only remain relevant but also become ever the more magnificent. What history remembers as his greatest works tend to fall in times when his hearing was deeply in the shadow. And these greatest works were revolutionary, unlike that of any music before his time. And his music changed so much over the course of his life because he had to endure the tragedy of hearing loss, and his heart told him that the constraints of music in his environment were too much, a set of rules to pivot away from, and eventually shed in entirety.

Beethoven’s works rewrote the principles of good music, transitioning the Classical Period to the Romantic Period, a time to say that simplicity and sensibility should not restrain the full expression of emotion and experience in art. Beethoven paved the way for the further expansion of Romantic ideals in the work of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin (as much as he liked to distance his music from Beethoven’s), Liszt (his grandstudent, through Czerny), Dvořák, and many others. Many of the last works of Beethoven were way out of his world (sometimes literally unplayable in the instruments of that time), because through his style transitions he has looked that far ahead in the evolution of music, and was helping the world catch up. He was a man whose life caught the current of revolution and who channelled it into new musical frontiers in a way that he left music in a completely different, newly ascended place like no other has done.

Have you earned the death penalty somewhere yet?

Have you committed a violent crime?
Probably at least somewhere in the world. Let’s just get to nonviolent crimes, some of which may be “crimes”.

Have you facilitated illegal drug trade?
China, India, United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iran, Thailand, Sudan, Iraq, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Yemen, North Korea, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Laos, Singapore, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Brunei

Are you an atheist?
Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Qatar, Maldives

Have you converted out of Islam?
Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Qatar

Have you engaged in homosexual acts?
Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mauritania, Qatar, Brunei

Have you insulted Allah?
Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mauritania, Brunei

Have you engaged in espionage?
United States, Vietnam, Iran, Algeria, Peru, Cameroon, Syria, Central African Republic, Qatar

Have you committed perjury leading to the execution of an innocent person?
United States, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Singapore

Have you committed adultery?
Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Brunei

Have you been corrupt?
China, Iran, Cuba

Have you committed fraud?
China, Vietnam

Have you engaged in witchcraft, whatever that means?
Saudi Arabia, Central African Republic

Have you trafficked arms?
Singapore

Have you possessed illegal drugs in large quantity?
Singapore

Have you had sex before marriage?
Saudi Arabia

Have you consumed South Korean media?
North Korea

Amorphous+, A Game of Unexpected Difficulty

Consider the supervillain power of being able to make games that manage to be very addictive while very unfun.

One such game super a supervillain might produce is Amorphous+.

This game is a continuous stream of a job being harder than it seems like it should be. (I remember when I tried playing this game several years ago, and ragequitted. Somehow I became more addicted this time around…) You’re just a person walking around cutting down blobs. And yet, there are a huge number of hidden difficulties together that conspire to make the job really difficult. Here’s a few I’ve been able to put my finger on as annoying:

-Timing matters, and is unintuitive. When to strike at a Gloople is easily mistimed.
-Less than half the circle around the player is strikable, and the player is always vulnerable from behind. This is particularly difficult because one has to get oneself to face the proper direction to make a strike, and one can easily think one’s facing a direction they are not.
-The player is halted upon any strike made.
-When things get bad, things quickly get worse. Getting debuffed from an encounter with a non-fatal blob makes one very likely to be dead soon.
-The boundaries of the strike zone are actually very unclear.

Maybe some of these are also the case in other games, but somehow in my eyes they only show in this game. (Also, some may consider such difficulties “fun” rather than annoying.) But in any case, this seems to be a means by which to cook a recipe for a game to be addicting even though it is painful to go through: make the player have an expectation that they will do well, and then hide difficulties that make this expectation difficult to obtain, thus wanting one to stay involved until one has proven oneself to oneself.

Previously, I have mentioned that the game agar.io is an amazing game in terms of how much strategy it allows with a high degree of simplicity. And yet, that game has its little caveats, simply caveats a player need not be aware of to play but may slowly realize. For instance, it is completely unobvious how large one must be to consume another player in agar.io, and that is in fact rather complicated to ascertain. The game would be a whole lot simpler if one simply compared one size to another. But that’s not how it goes, and the game might not even be that much of a game otherwise. I don’t mind this thing about agar.io so much, and I still think agar.io is a profoundly well-designed game. Not here. I am definitely not enjoying playing Amorphous+ (probably because there are just that many more hidden difficulties than in agar.io), and yet I’m still playing it. Grrr. Time to go back to suffering.

Offense

How important is it to be politically correct? Should people be condemned for saying offensive things publicly? How publicly? How does one evaluate whether a certain instance of offense being taken is fair and when one is just too easily offended? What jokes are okay to make? What symbols are acceptable to publicly present? When is it acceptable to call for something to be taken down because of a means by which it is offensive to a certain community?

These are questions that have suddenly become very relevant recently in the US, and this becomes a particular problem when something that is offensive to one group of people is an item of common discourse or important cultural symbol for another group of people. Thus, if one simply decides to arbitrate on offense by subjective means, one is merely asserting that one group of people’s feelings matter more than another group of people’s. Additionally, if we simply condemn and discourage anything that is offensive to anyone, we would generally end up with nothing, because most anything one could talk about offends someone out there. (Hopefully, you’ve at least once if not over and over again witnessed someone taking a completely mundane action that you were sure was completely innocent and gotten shocked that it turned out someone actually took offense at it.)

From this, one could say that someone needs a good reason with which they are able to explain that they find something offensive. But now we have merely passed the burden of arbitration onto the problem of evaluating the goodness of a reason. The amount by which different people react and the amount by which they are offended by different things are vastly different, even if these are different members of the same community targeted by a deemed-offensive statement or action.

It would be foolhardy to attempt to find reasonable objective axioms by which all cases of offense can be accurately categorized as “yeah, what the fuck” or “oh, come on”, or even to find anything close to a universal comparator of cases to confidently decide which of two things are more offensive. But certainly some insults, some jokes, and some signals are more offensive than others. If symbols are references to movements against a group of people, references to systematic killing against a group are more offensive than references to only marginalization against a group. (The second is still bad, but is very reasonable to compare as not as bad as the first.) But we mustn’t just use what we think to evaluate offensiveness, because as mentioned above, not everyone thinks like us, and this particularly hints that there may be things we think are normal but can be quite defensibly described as offensive.

Indeed, many languages, like English, are actually imbued with terms that were crafted by people long ago to be derogatory to a group of people but that were sinisterly planted to reach common usage and seem normal. If person A is aware of historical offensive context that person B is not, then when person A publicly points out that person B is being offensive via usage of a term, this is unfortunate for both sides: person A has been offended, and person B just did something (s)he in good faith thought was innocent but had to suffer social backlash for it. And even when knowledge is evened out, people could still disagree on how offensive something is, and expression of this disagreement could really escalate grudges against a person. Although person A shouldn’t have to fear educating person B about why something is offensive, being too easily called out in the presence of person A may lead person B to be uncomfortable with interacting with person A.

There comes yet another question about when requesting that something that honors a historical figure that took actions or made statements against a particular group is reasonable. This is particularly problematic when such a person has done great things to help other groups of people. I personally find that there’s really good arguments both that one should lower or raise one’s standards for the level of offense past which ideas and honorings are unacceptable. I find that I’m generally okay with people talking with levels of strictness on offensiveness anywhere along the spectrum, as long as one’s consistent. It bothers me that a lot of people seem to have peculiar priorities on what should be considered offensive, that is, yell at one thing for being very offensive but not caring anything at all about something that seems quite clearly more offensive. In such a situation, one needs to make a case for a reasonable viewpoint in which the second is more offensive than the first.

Enough of talking in the abstract. It is probably much clearer to give an example.

Many things in America are named “Columbus” or “Columbia” (the second comes from the first). (Sometimes, this is even the land of America itself.) A whole lot of things, actually, more than honoring a disturbing number of other things. And for what? These things are named after Christopher Columbus, often celebrated in the United States as the discoverer of America. This is profoundly false, and by profoundly, I mean by many, many layers. If “America” refers to the United States, then it fails as a fact because Columbus actually never reached land that is now the United States. But taking “America” to mean the continent, however one defines “continent”, Columbus isn’t even the first European to make it to America, but more importantly, Native Americans have inhabited the continent for centuries before, and saying that Columbus was the discoverer of America implicitly states that one believes that Native Americans are beings not worthy of being able to discover or have the credit to discover, which is dehumanizing if not worse.

But who was Christopher Columbus? Let’s start with a diary entry that he wrote upon first contact with Native Americans.

“They….brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things….They willingly traded everything they owned….They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane….They would make fine servants….With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

This is the type of person Columbus was: one who sees in an innocent person an enslavable person. In initial years having the Natives as slaves he forced them to mine him gold, and mutilated and executed those that failed to do so. Many of course failed, because Columbus made up to himself the idea that the islands he happened upon contained gold. He also forced many natives as young as 9 years old to be sex slaves for his men. But his ultimate work? Initiating the genocide of the Taino, a people that actually eventually died out. Columbus, unlike Ismail Enver, Adolf Hitler, Yahya Khan, or Pol Pot, began an actually successful wiping out of an ethnicity.

So I think that everything that is named after this person, one of the most toxic humans to have lived on this planet, should be required to change its name to something honoring a better person. (This is not hard, because simply randomly choosing another human being who has lived to name the thing after honors a better person with probability approximately 1.) Every Columbus and every Columbia we have, unless named after someone or something else, is a dedication to a person who symbolizes racism, xenophobia, and numerous crimes against humanity including genocide, and we ought to be far, far past this.

(I imagine some of you are probably wondering if I actually have this view in real life rather than just presenting a case for the purpose of this post. The answer is ‘yes’. I think there can be convincing arguments against, and as I mentioned prior, I’m okay with positions nearly anywhere along the spectrum of how ruthlessly one should condemn the offensive as long as one’s consistent. What I’m definitely sure of, though, is that there are way too many ways in which the United States honors Christopher Columbus, a man of far more vice than virtue, and at least some of these ways are seriously due for getting cut down.)

And here are my points: if you think that this is ridiculous, but think that something else is offensive enough that you would support its bringing down, you should ask why you support that but don’t support this. Specifically, you need to make an argument for why you believe what you find offensive is worse than celebrating a genocidal megalomaniac. (Or otherwise you’d need to be making an argument about why some people’s feelings are worth more than others’.) Also, it may have completely shocked you that someone is reacting to Christopher Columbus this negatively. And if it did, maybe this helps clarify the feeling of shock that something is offensive. It is very easy to accidentally look past another’s perspective in the socially mine-rich subject of offense.