Long Time No Blog

I’ve been divorced for a month now.  Despite my polyamorous and agnostic feelings, my divorce is certainly not a cause for celebration, and I do not blog about it a such.  Even with my beliefs, convictions, experiments, and such it still was and is something very difficult for both Lisa and I.  I mention it here simply as a matter of record.
However, I would say that Lisa and I had a very successful and amicable divorce.  I think I’ll make it a point to talk about some of the principles that helped us to hammer out what I believe to be an excellent arrangement in a future entry.

Anyhow, my divorce is what has kept me silent for nearly 4 months, and I hope to begin again begin a steady stream of entries.

[Jan. 23, 2012 - Obviously, that didn't happen]

Thoughts on the Penal System

I remember when I was about 12 years old.  My brother had made me upset by eating one of my snacks.  I’m not proud of it, but I retaliated by hitting him and making him cry.  My parents sent me to my room to think about what I had done.  I begrudingly went, but when I was in there something happened!!!Laying in my bed, I realized that what I had done was wrong.  I felt a great desire to be nice to my brother, and I was grateful to my parents for having sent me to my room.  After that, I never hit my brother again, and I made an effort to help other people with aggression issues.

The previous story didn’t happen.  In fact, the opposite usually occurred.  I couldn’t wait to get out of the room so that I could hurt my brother for ”getting me in trouble,” and I resented my parents for confining me.  While I recognize that reflection and introspection can be the cause of great personal changes, I’m not personally aware of anyone who has rethought their actions when they have been forcefully confined and told to do so.  I’m sure that it has happened, but to my knowledge it is a fairly rare occurrence. Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 2/3 of criminals are rearrested within 3 years.  If you give all the credit for the other third to the penal system (which I wouldn’t), then the system is only successful at rehabilitating one in 3 criminals. Therefore, I think that I am on fairly safe ground when I say that the prison system is almost exclusively punitive, and very minimally corrective.

Here’s the problem I have with that.  According to the BJS , just shy of $30 billion was spent on prisoners in the US in the most recent study year.  That is actual money spent, already being offset for any revenue producing activities prisoners perform.

[It seems to me this article must have been cut off during migration to WordPress, and I can't find the original]

 

 

Why T-mobile May Become the Most Highly Regarded Service Company in America

T-mobile has made some surprising progress towards becoming the most highly regarded service company in America. In a previous article I discussed things that I thought would be important to change to achieve that goal, but that I thought T-mobile would be unwilling to address. But to a great degree I have been proven wrong.
I theorized that the biggest improvements T-mobile could make would be to: 1) eliminate overage, 2) eliminate contracts, and 3) ensure customers always have a working handset. It’s been only 8 months, and while T-mobile hasn’t done much with #3, they have made some awesome strides with steps 1 and 2.
T-mobile has done 2 major things to eliminate overage. First, they introduced the hotspot at home service. This service gives subscribers with broadband internet unlimited calls from home, from 7500 T-mobile hotspots, and basically anywhere else with wifi (except internet cafés and hotels that have a login page, since T-mobile’s phones can’t display the login page). Having unlimited calls from all these places does a lot to help people avoid going over their minutes. Second, T-mobile launched Flexpay. Flexpay allows you to enjoy all the benefits of having a plan, without the risk of overage. All you have to do is prepay the cost of your plan each month. And if you pay full price for your phone you don’t have to have a contract.

These improvements are certainly evidence that T-mobile does in fact have the willpower to change even the core practices of its business to be sure that customer satisfaction is their #1 priority.

Morality

I listened to a pretty cool radio program recently. The show is Radio Lab and the episode I caught is about morality.

You’ll need Real Player to be able to listen to it.

Spoilers below(continue reading and you will not be able to participate in the thought experiments the show provides without the taint of my evil mind ;) If you care, I suggest you click the link above, listen to the show, then come back and read my thoughts.)

Scroll down to read my thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My moral code suggests that the right answers are: pull the lever, push the man, kill the baby. I believe I could do the first 2, but I’m not sure about my ability to do the 3rd despite my conviction of it’s correctness. I do have one doubt regarding the push the man scenario: if you can push someone to save the 5, can you not also jump yourself? If one is unwilling to die himself, I am no longer certain of the correctness of pushing someone else.

From an evolutionary perspective, being willing to die yourself is only selected for if there are sufficient people of a like willingness in the population. Otherwise the willing people die off and the population is left with people who aren’t willing to die for another. Whereas being willing to kill 1 man to save 5 would always be selected for in the population. This of course is looking at the situation in a vacuum, and doesn’t consider any vengeance that could be enacted by the pushed man’s family, the fact that people who are willing to kill to save might also be willing to kill for gain, etc. Right now I’m just talking pure mathematics.

I also thought the experiments of the psychiatrist/neurologist were interesting. As discussed (ad nauseam ;) ) in a previous entry, I came up with a model of human morality based on my thought experiments with evolution that has some striking similarities to the model this gentleman proposes based on his brain scans. In my model, humans are born with instincts that are mostly, if not entirely, for their own survival (fight or flight, sexual desire, etc.). They are also born with a blank slate of sorts. This blank slate is filled with information gathered in the world, whether it be through teaching or observation. This blank slate is used to program humans with beliefs that foster the continuation of society, as opposed to the continuation of the self (don’t kill, don’t steal, etc.). Sometimes these systems would run counter to each other, or even to themselves. For example, in my model the train scenario is an instance of the societal system trying to resolve it’s own conflict. On the one hand we have the teaching “Don’t kill someone else” and on the other we have the teaching “Save lives when you can.” There must be a way for determining who wins, hence the “judge” part of the brain observed by these scientists.
So listen to the show, it is interesting.

Cuff! Cuff! Cuff! Cuff!

Forgive me if the title of this entry offended you.  I suspect it may have, because the sounds created by combining the letters C, U, and F are offensive.  This is how our culture typically propagates offense to these syllabic concoctions:

Child: $h!7.
Parent: Don’t say that!
Child: Why?
Parent: Because it’s VERY bad.
Child: What does it mean?
Parent: It doesn’t matter what it means, if I ever hear you say it again I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap.

As the child grows up, he will learn what all the words mean.  He later learns that while no topic is off limits (sex, vaginas, penises, fecal matter, urine, the glutens, condemnation, etc.), putting certain letters together to refer to those things is bad.  During his teen years, he will intentionally salt his speech with bad words, because bad is cool.

What prompted all of this?
My facts on this subject are a little hazy, but here goes anyway.  As I’m sure many of  you heard, according to the PTC, a court has decided to take away power from the FTC and allow the use of swear words in front of children.  Filtering out the spin, what really happened is that the court said that in the case of live television (awards shows, etc.), broadcast networks can’t be fined for the unscripted actions of people not on it’s payroll.  People are up in arms because it might give children the impression that swearing is OK.

It was about this same time that Will Ferrel released his video The Landlord and psychologists everywhere mused that we shouldn’t take a chance at turning our kids into cussers.

Am I the only one who gleaned an additional lesson after my teen years were over: no one cares!  I don’t swear myself, but basically for the same reasons I don’t swallow gum: I was told it is bad, I don’t have a habit of it, so I’ve decided not to start.  Accept when addressing large groups, it seems that burger flippers, accountants, and CEOs all cuss.   The only time people really take offense to swearing is when they are sworn at.  Fxxx you hurts.  My computer is Fxxxed up doesn’t.  It’s as though there’s a game that everyone in the world is playing.  The rules are 1) I’m going to come up with a short way of saying “I offend you.”  2) When I utter that word, you respond with genuine offense.

So aren’t intentions and ideas the things that really offend us?  Then why does “I’m going to kill my mother, and then go have unprotected sex and share IV drugs with a prostitute” get by, but an unexpected “Thanks for a Fxxxing great night” should be cause for a fine?  Because then you get into a conversation of freedom of speech, etc.  So apparently, a significant number of parents think that we should fine people for behaviors that are easy to identify and go after, instead of going after content that really matters.

Here’s my solution: There is already a TV rating system in place.  People who are concerned about offensive material should buy one of many devices that allow you to block offensive content.  Those who are concerned about the price of the device should play monopoly instead of watch TV. Also, there should be a new rating prefix: Live.  In the same way that video games announce that the experience may change during online play (which means people will respond with shouts and swearing to both positive and negative game events), a live awards show might get TV-Live-G with a qualifying, “some viewers may find unscripted dialog and actions offensive.”  Voila!

The Cons of Life Without Jesus

Religion is not all bad, and perhaps is mostly good.  The biggest thing that bothers me about religions are their claims to be true.  If religions were simply promoted as systems of useful metaphors, I’d probably have not complaint against them.

There are a few things that have creeped into my godless life that were not present in my godful one, and that go against what I think is right.  My current belief system seems to lack the motivational impetus to control these behaviors.  But now that I’m sitting down to write about them, I seem to have forgotten what they are… well, I remember one, maybe there only was one:

  1. Anger- Without Jesus, I find that I am prone to express my anger in ways that I later regret.  It’s not physical, as I have never hit, nor do I believe I’ve even threatened to hit, my wife or children.  It’s more an inner feeling that I didn’t use to deal with.  I used to believe that God commanded me to be happy, and so I was.  Or rather, I behaved happily (not all christians find it that easy, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts I seem to have something of a disconnect to my emotions).  Now that I no longer hold that belief, I find that I’m more easily agitated.  For example, if my boy is hitting my girl, I might grab his arm and yank him behind me as I pick her up.  I’m sure it’s scary for him, because that’s the emotion that radiates out from me.  It says, “I didn’t hurt you, but I really wanted to.”  For the above reason, I find that I have to apoligize to my family more frequently than before.

If I think of anything else I lack without Jesus, I’ll add comments to this post.

MidnightFlock.com Launches

I’m proud to announce that www.midnightflock.com has reached open beta. Not that our site is as ambitious as a game or any of Google’s projects or anything, but we don’t want people to hunt us down with pitch forks or tar and feather us if there are some broken links and such at first. :)

I can’t explain what it is to be a member of the Midnight Flock. So rather than waste my breath, I think you’ll find it well worth 45 seconds of your time to take our short quiz to find out if you are a member.

I wrote up the following link for a post on GarageGames.com, but figured it might be interesting for people here as well.  Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what nurbs mean ;)

History
Midnight Flock started as an indie game company in February 2005. At that time our artist thought nurbs were celestial objects, our programmer (me) thought C++ was a grade of 79.5% (I hadn’t even written Hello World yet), and our game designer/writer hadn’t done much beside create some really fun AD&D campaigns. But we had what we thought were some great ideas for games and the intelligence and tenacity to bring them to life, so we started a game company.

We were all busy with the other aspects of our lives (work, study, gaming), and the combined time the 3 of us were able to dedicate to games development was probably the equivalent of 1/10 the weekly productivity of a seasoned programmer or artist. We had also learned that most saavy indie teams license an engine so that what little time they do have can be spent on their game, not on creating the basic foundation that all games need. So we began looking at engines to bring our ideas to life. We found GarageGames and over the course of time bought indie licenses for Torque, Torque Advanced, and Torque Game Builder.

We soon realized that the games we had initially conceived were the type of games that require AAA budgets/staff. Being impoverished and unexperienced like many indie developers, we had to think of a different game plan. We decided to try and build a few smaller games that we thought would be fun, but that we weren’t necessarily passionate about creating. We laid out a path that we thought would allow us to “snowball” our cash and experience from small games to the games we were passionate about creating.

But of course, the first “small” game we tried to create with the Torque Game Engine made us feel like babies trying to chew a jolly rancher. After about 6 months of slow progress, we ran into some hurdles that we realized we just weren’t going to be able to solve with our limited time, experience, and cash. We tried to rescope the project without the features causing these problems. But then the gameplay just didn’t seem as fun as we envisioned. So we decided to scrap the project and create an even smaller game with Torque Game Builder. Soon we had created a prototype for this game. But while the game was fun, we just weren’t confident that it would be a hit on the portals.

It was about this time that Jeff Tunnel began his blog, www.makeitbigingames.com. In one of his entries he talked about getting published on Xbox Live Arcade. He stated that he thought the average budget was around $300k and would probably climb rapidly. He also stated that he believed it was a meritocracy, and that the best games would be offered positions in the lineup.

Of course, we think we have some dang good ideas (doesn’t everyone?), but we began thinking about this $300k figure. To us that meant 6 $50k/year caliber employees working full time. We were more akin to 3 $25k/year caliber employees and we were working part time. Our efforts were probably worth $50-100k or so per year. We could continue as we were: pick a game with an appropriate scope, dedicate a few more hours a week to the project, and work for an estimated 2-6 years to bring it about. Or we could once again alter our strategy.

Being eager for success, we opted for the latter. We decided to take what we thought would be a brief pit stop of a couple months and turn our brand into an apparel line for gamers, after which we would return to game development. 10 months later, here we are. :p

A Design Process Rooted in Games
In keeping with our roots as a game company, our art pipeline is complex and convoluted. Seriously though, our art process is much more similar to a game studio than the typical apparel company. We created concept art of our characters. That concept art was used to create models in Maya. Those models were used to create all of the images on our site. Additionally, renders of the models were translated into the vector art we used to create our shirt designs.

The Benefits of Programming
Having cut my teeth on C++ and Torquescript, picking up PHP was a snap. We’ve been able to program some nice extras/mods into our website, including our referral program. We’re not done yet, but it’s nice to have the power to do whatever we want, instead of make do with whatever we are given.

Lastly, here are some shots of our first 2 designs:

Why I Blog About the Things I Do

It kills me that I am causing Lisa so much pain.  And as if the private pain weren’t bad enough, I’m causing her public embarassment.  She is so wonderful.  She has so many reasons to be cold and biting, but instead she is kind and loving.  Her sweetness and innocence make it so hard for me to be honest with her, and to drag that honesty out into the world in a way that gives her additional hurt.  So why do I do it?

Towards the end of my tenure as a church attendant, I was present in a testimony meeting that I have not forgotten.  In this meeting a 12-year-old girl stood up to share her feelings.  She said that she had been sad because all of the other young girls talked about how much God loved them.  She didn’t feel like God loved her.  She went to the Bishop to talk about her concerns.  The Bishop told her that God surely loved her, and that she should pray harder and look harder for signs of his love.  Some days later on a cloudy morning she was waiting to catch the school bus and she was feeling sad that she hadn’t received confirmation that God loved her. Just then, a ray of the sun broke through a hole in the clouds.  It was beautiful, and the young girl testified that she knew at that moment that God loved her.

I blog about religion for people like her, because they are like me.  Undoubtedly anytime anything good or beautiful happens in her life she will categorize it as God’s love.  Anytime anything unfortunate happens she will categorize it as a test, the devil, or just life.  If she lives out her life happily and never doubts her belief in God then that is fine.  But if she does start to doubt , I want her to know that she is not weak or stupid as her family and church leaders will try and make her feel.  She is not revising history if she decides to recategorize her happy experiences as part of life or nature.  And if I somehow become a God fearing person again, I want her to know the thought process that led me there.

I blog about polyamory for a similar reason.  When I began blogging I did not know what I would conclude.  I still don’t know exactly how things will turn out.  If I decide to fight my feelings for the rest of my life to make Lisa happy or for some other reason, I want people who feel like me to know why I decided to live that way and how it makes me feel.  If I decide to gratify my desires, I want people to have the same information and be able to see the results.

Lastly, I think I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t observe that airing these things out has similar value to a catholic attending confessional or a mormon talking to the bishop.  People who know me generally like me and think that I am a decent person (and I agree ;) ).  I guess I don’t want people to think that I am a hypocrite because I don’t behave like a degenerate, but have thoughts they might consider degenerate.  To me there is no contradiction in my outward demeanor and my inward thoughts and feelings.  It’s a poor explanation, but it will have to do, I’m off to work!

Wrestling Neo-debut

I’ve been going to wrestling practice to stay in shape, and I just competed in my first meet on Saturday.  Check out the video link at the end of this entry.  I’m not in the first match, you’ll have to skip to time marker 3:59 to watch me.

The gentleman I wrestled with first is in his mid 30s.  This match lasted 2 or 3 times longer than what was caught on film, but the person doing the taping wasn’t familiar with my camcorder.  Anyway, I was rather inspired by my opponents technique, stamina, and strength.  He intimidated me by doing a couple things that had never happened to me before in my 5 year wrestling career in junior high and high school.  When we tied up he did it in such a way that I felt like I had been hit on the neck with a baseball bat.  This disoriented and scared me.  Second, he nearly killed me with his pinning combination :p  I don’t think of myself as a wuss.  I’ve been in pinning combinations before where it was hard to breath because my neck was being torqued or because some body part was betwixt my mouth and the delicious air.  But I’ve fought out and dealt with it.  This guy had me such that I couldn’t breathe AND I was fairly confident that my windpipe was about to break.  So I am mildly ashamed to say that I tapped.  Tapping is considered the ultimate in wussiness in wrestling, but I swear to goodness that I honestly believed that if I didn’t tap I would die.  As evidence that his hold was damaging, I could barely swallow for the rest of Saturday, Sunday I felt like I had a sore throat, and today I feel pretty decent, just a nagging little wince when I swallow.  That doesn’t happen in a normal pinning combination, no matter how tight.

I was also inspired by my second opponent.  A 27 year old ex marine who was shot once in the leg and once in the chest in December!  There he was less than 3 months later competing in a wrestling match, for which he praises God.  What drive.

The only person I’m uninspired by is myself.  It was never my object to start wrestling to win, so that’s not what bothers me.  What bothers me is that I look sloppy and slow. I’m hunched over, I cross my legs, etc., etc.  Physically I’m unhappy with my lack of… anything noteworthy.  I’m not buff, nor am I cut.  No definition in the quadriceps, no definition in the biceps, no definition in the shoulders.  Combined with my poor technique, it just makes for bad viewing.  However, I am motivated to fix those things.  A few videos down the road and, hopefully, I’ll feel like all the time I spend wrestling is translating into something I can be proud of viewing.

Get the video here! (The video was taken down when I moved my site.  Perhaps I’ll find it and repost it)

Note: This video was converted from DVD format to .wmv by Movavi Video Converter 5.0.  It works as promised, offers conversions from and to a lot of file types, but takes quite a while to do it’s job (between 4 and 20 times the length of the files converted, depending on the quality of the source and conversion files).