Driving Blind: Dwarf Fortress and Fat Albert

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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29 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Fat Albert was brilliant insofar as even though you knew it was preachy, it wasn’t *THAT* preachy. It didn’t feel contrived.Report

  2. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I want to like Dwarf Fortress so much, but it needs a UI.Report

  3. Avatar George Turner says:

    Regarding toddlers, their actions make far more sense than the jihadists who are trying to turn the world into a caliphate and subject us all to sharia and rule by clerics. Toddlers are the most oppressed class of people in America, treated like chattel, ordered about on a whim, forbidden from voting, not even allowed to choose when they eat and when they sleep. If any group had a justifiable reason for recourse to lethal force, it is they.

    Also, regarding some of your literature links, e-books were developed and promoted by the NSA because reading paper books didn’t leave an electronic signature, and all too often they were even purchased anonymously with cash at second-hand bookstores. E-books fix that by leaving a clear purchase or acquisition trail (even if you download them illegally) and the readers will let the government track your reading page by page, in real time. The new monitoring and filtering software can detect in incipient formation of dangerous ideas and reliably predict how your inchoate discontent will develop based on the literature (books) being input into your brain. By mapping your personal contacts via meta-data, they can flag your friends and associates who you’ve likely infected with dissenting or wrong opinions, much the way the CDC tracks and combats communicable diseases, so they can combat the outbreak in a timely and efficient manner.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner says:

      well duh…that is what the tinfoil is for, to keep your thought private.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      But they monitor your purchases, through credit card data, of course, but also even most cash purchases. That’s why they invented reward points and membership cards. In my town every inhabitant uses their Kroger Plus card for almost everything. My particular Kroger card is anonymous, but the first time I got a discount with it while using my ATM card, the connection was undoubtedly made. Who pays for the deep discounts that attracts everyone to those cards? US intelligence.

      Of course whenever someone goes through a checkout line without a membership card or credit card, their GPS equipped smart phone provides enough information for a reliable match, especially when referenced to the store’s security cameras.

      Since most major retailers probably turn over information on the individual items you buy, including aluminum foil, the government would know to just turn up the sensitivity. So what you have to do is buy something innocuous like canned beer or cola, then cut the cans apart, poke holes along the edges of the rectangular sheets of aluminum, and then stitch them together into a helmet using copper magnet wire.

      One trick I’ve been using lately is to buy a smart phone (anonymously of course) and then download the Waze ap that sends real-time road traffic information to their servers (which lets their map applications warn you of traffic jams). Apple maps works similarly. Then I hop online and tweet derogatory things about Obama, Clapper, Holder, the IRS, EPA, BATF, DHS, State Department, and CIA, to make sure the phone is “hot”. Then whenever some woman is ahead of me in the express lane with more than 15 items, I surreptitiously slip the smart phone into her grocery bag. She gets audited by the IRS, sued by the EPA (with no recourse to the court system), visited by the Secret Service, cavity searched at the airport, and finally blown up by a GPS smart-phone homing drone strike while she’s driving to church or a AA meeting. When I notice the phone number has finally gone inactive I’m like, “Yeah, try slipping 18 items though that line again, beotch!”Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner says:

        ” She gets … cavity searched”
        Geez you can’t talk to a conservative for more than five minutes before they get all into forcing things into womens bodies against their will. Well i guess that’s better then conservatives whining about being bent over or having stuff shoved down their throats.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to George Turner says:

        I would endorse/use this method if I thought there was any probability that it was true and effective.Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Sometimes the grammar police ruin everything, and sometimes they make it better.

    You should have said “but sometimes they make things better.” “It” has no clear referent, and I’m sure you didn’t mean to imply that they make “everything” better.Report

  5. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    What, the Guardian is unreliable? And the right-wing noise machine has hyped the inaccuracies to a level that the less spectacular truth will never catch up with? And the supposedly liberal MSM has gone along with that 100%? Inconceivable!Report

    • You left out another noticeable group helping to hype the hype, Mr. Schilling, though kudos to Mr. Gach at least for bringing the walk-back to the League’s attention, if quietly. Another fellow a bit ahead on this particular curve was Mark Jaquith: https://medium.com/prism-truth/82a1791c94d3Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        See Freddie for an analysis of Jaquith’s piece as well as Jaquith’s comment for a further elaboration: http://lhote.blogspot.com/2013/06/various-problems-with-nsa-defenses.htmlReport

        • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          I find it somewhat typical, Mr Gach, that the crimes and lesser violations (of confidentiality agreements) that Snowden openly confesses having committed are left out of Freddie’s “Squaring the ‘damage done’ circle.” The bank robber is still a bank robber even if it turns out that the vault was empty, and the spy is still a spy even the information she passed on was bogus information. The fact that the spy did no actual damage will likely be taken into account on sentencing, at least for anyone inclined to leniency, but the punishment will still likely be severe based on criminal intent and conduct, regardless of the success of the particular criminal enterprise.

          Some, though not all, backers of Snowden applaud his actions because they, supposedly, expose threats to the rule of law state from within the state, but these same individuals show little evident interest in actual rule of law in the actually existing state. A state that does not take violations of its laws seriously, and does not take notorious and exemplary violations of its laws especially seriously, has no rule of law. In other words, it or rather all of its citizens have an independent interest of the highest significance in seeing the law respected. In the case of possibly un-just laws, it offers avenues for those who would seek to have them changed, as well as tradition of civil disobedience, in which a citizen shows true moral courage by refusing obedience and accepting punishment in the interest of changing society and the law.

          Some Snowdenists are, of course, somewhat openly if not always very consistently, revolutionary. They may pursue voluntaristic ideologies incompatible with the fundamental commitments of a liberal democratic order. Or they have already determined that the state is unsalvageable and deserves, in short, to be destroyed – or at least they find the melodramatic rhetoric entertaining. Where they cannot be brushed aside, where they begin to do meaningful damage to the state or endanger its citizens (damage to the state and damage to the citizens are the same thing in a democratic republic), the state and citizens have every interest in opposing them. No circle needs to be squared.Report

          • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            CK, I don’t usually find the time to respond thoughtfully to your comments…but always appreciate them.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            CK, I also want to add (and this may be a weird place to do so, but wanted to put it out there) that, content aside, it seems that you have noticeably been making an effort to write in a more accessible style recently. I just wanted to say thanks for that; it’s probably frustrating for you, and I can’t say that it will ultimately bring you less grief, but it is appreciated.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Glyph says:

              Could be, Glyph, that the criticism has had an effect on me; or could be some topics are easier to discuss than others; or could be different interlocutors, different locutions; or could be you’re just getting more used to the way I “talk”; or could be all of that in whatever proportions, or could be something else, but, whatever the explanation, I appreciate your good will.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            It’s odd that you write this in response to a comment linking to Freddie’s post, in which he says nothing about whether Snowden should face criminal penalties if he has done something illegal. The “squaring the circle” bit comes from the seemingly incongruous positions that Snowden has not revealed anything we didn’t already know, or what he has revealed is innocuous, with the claims that he has committed a horrible crime.

            Now, I think there is actually a middle ground: he hasn’t revealed anything important, but the information he leaked was classified, and therefore he has broken the law. But your comment doesn’t seem to suggest that middle ground, and instead rails against something that Freddie, at least, didn’t say, and that I haven’t seen Gach say.

            Personally, I think leakers or whistleblowers or whatever you want to call them are, in fact, important to the health of a democratic state, but I also think that to the extent that their actions are against the law, they should be subject to the penalties of that law. That’s the way civil disobedience is supposed to work (though I admit to not being opposed to the use of pardons in such cases, which is also important to the healthy functioning of the state).Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

              More generally, you keep waving your hands at largely undefined, abstracted, and amorphous groups of people, and saying that they are like X, Y, and Z, without providing any link to actual people, here or elsewhere. Perhaps you could do so, next time you write this sort of thing? I know that when I was first starting grad school, my advisor used to say, “People always understand things better if you provide an example and break it down,” and that advice has always worked well for me.Report

            • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

              While we’re on this personal theme, I still haven’t forgotten, Chris, your parting shots in your last comment to me when you “disengaged” from that last discussion of ours that you found “frustrating.” It’s easy to disengage, when you really want to disengage: You stop. To introduce new arguments or new insults, or to associate yourself with other ones, is not to disengage, but to exploit the both the particular person’s openness to discussion and as well as the openness of this discussion space. Why should I assume now that if I take the time to respond to your criticisms, you won’t just slam the door again when the spirit moves you? Obviously, it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things whether Chris hurts CK’s feelings or, for that matter, embarrasses himself, but it will color future interactions. You spoke in that comment of a “next conversation.” As you can see, there is no “next conversation.” There is a continuation of that conversation or, possibly, no conversation at all.

              In regard to the current argument, you seem to be doing something that a lot of people like to do, which is to take a point that has been made, often in what seems to be very clear language, and assert it as some kind of argument contra. You say:

              It’s odd that you write this in response to a comment linking to Freddie’s post, in which he says nothing about whether Snowden should face criminal penalties if he has done something illegal.

              From the first sentence of the comment you’re referencing:

              [T]he crimes and lesser violations (of confidentiality agreements) that Snowden openly confesses having committed are left out of Freddie’s “Squaring the ‘damage done’ circle.”

              That’s my point. Freddie left ’em out. He said “nothing about whether.” That is why I then try to explain that 1) breaking the law, especially seriously breaking serious laws by and in making media appearances, is and must be taken as “damage done” to the interests of a state based on the rule of law, or of its citizens, and that 2) different views on this problem matter in different ways, in particular by presenting a choice to those at least initially sympathetic to Snowden (or, perhaps, “Snowdenism”), as to whether they really want to associate themselves with the full implications of supporting his conduct.

              Your next comment below strikes me as frivolous, and, since you made the “hand-waving” charge in that comment which I criticized, I find it distracting that you repeat it. You seem to have latched onto it. Maybe I just don’t understand what it means to you or why it’s a problem at all.

              We know that there are people who support Snowden enthusiastically, others with reservations, others who are withholding judgment, others criticizing him, etc. I gave examples, where I thought appropriate or useful by name, in my first comment under our previous, abortive discussion on this topic. Such people or this naturally occurring range of people or opinions are all over the place here at the League, in the media and social media, and in a few cases under discussion mentioned directly right here. In order to understand these people as anything other than a mass of “amorphous, undefined” people with random meaningless and unaccountable opinions, we engage in “abstraction.” It’s an essential element of the process of “breaking it down” or of “definition.”Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to CK MacLeod says:

                That comment was embarrassing, because it seems to have repeated something I said. And I do apologize if I’ve hurt your feelings, but I was, and continue to be, frustrated. It seems that your position involves repeatedly invoking vague groups of people, with the even more vague implication that it might include people here, perhaps even the people you’re addressing (one of whom is me), attribute both positions and motives to them, and then dismiss their positions out of hand in part because of their motives, in part because of only hinted at consequences, and in part out of some purely affect-driven evaluation based on possible associations with other groups or the consequences of their views. All of that is frustrating.

                If nothing else, this sort of vagueness, which I refer to as hand-waving because it invokes, in me at least, the sense that you’re merely waving an arm in the general direction of a mostly, if not entirely undefined group or groups or behavior or behaviors, makes it difficult for me to answer your more general claims about, for example, the identity of the state and the people, because doing so would require addressing the claim of the harm you mention, which would in turn require me to understand who does the harm, who precisely (not in the abstract sense of the “state”) has been harmed, and whether it makes sense to say in that case that the harmed individual or individuals is coextensive with the people (it seems without question that there are cases in which “the state,” in the form of an individual or group of individuals representing or operating on behalf of the state, can be harmed, while the people benefit, even in a purely democratic society, which implies that can also be the case in an imperfect one like the one in which we find ourselves, has a fairly straightforward and obvious answer, but I take it that your claim is more complicated than that), because you haven’t really said who has done the harm, what the harm is, or who precisely has been harmed. So again, I’m frustrated.

                And I admit to being tempted to remain disengaged, because quite frankly, at this level of frustration, in response to this level of vagueness, I’m inclined to believe that nothing positive can come out of remaining engaged. But, based on knowledge of prior engagements, I return to this one, or remain within it.

                Also note that the squaring of the circle to which Freddie refers involves reference to his crimes, or at least their potential criminal consequences, alleged though they may be (innocent until proven guilty and all that).Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, I don’t want to leave your comment hanging, since I take it as a kind of peace offering or something close to one. Since, however, you make some complex remarks about a complex topic, I’ll have to risk responding with some gross abstractions. It may even appear, as it seems to have appeared to you before, that I am again simply arguing in generalities about the wonders of “the state.” I think we’re trying to discover a basis for discussion, and that we are having a problem on such a fundamental level implies a lack of shared basic definitions both of key terms and of of the possible purposes of the discussion they would define. (In this connection, of the most basic definitions of basic terms and bases of discussion, I’ll note that you recently mentioned having read, long ago I think you said, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature. Hume makes some very compact, connected statements about the nature of the state, the law, and allegiance that have been in my mind of late, and that I think you might find worth reviewing. They’re easy to find from the table of contents, appearing near the end, if you have a copy around or look for them on-line. If you like, I can dig up some more specific citations. I purchased a serviceable Kindle version for $0.99, in a volume that also includes Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.)

                Specifically regarding your frustration with what you call “hand-waving,” in my view I have in fact been quite specific and have named names where I could, but another part of the problem is that not all involved, possibly very few people involved, in a broad discussion of this type have positions that can be reliably defined. Few of us operate under the requirement to have something sensible and responsible to say before we speak up. If we did, things might be a lot quieter – including in my vicinity, goes without and as it happens also with saying – but we don’t operate in the way. Another partly overlapping group simply cannot be treated as good faith interlocutors: They have a point they want to make, and that’s it. There is not much you can do with them other than wave back or wave them off. One option for making sense of the resultant senselessness is to try to understand the meaning of statements in particular contexts, and then consider them under the presumption that they are meant to be held consistently, purposefully, and accountably. The only other possibly meaningful choice would be meaningful silence – a valid choice, perhaps, but we never can actually recommend it without being hypocrites.

                A connected problem goes to the nature of the main question, and disagreement about what the main question is or should be. On the specific notion of “harm to the state,” the state is an abstraction, one of our greatest abstractions, so the harm to the state will often have to be stated as an abstraction. We can say, abstractly (and channeling Burke, Hume, Hegel, et al), that the state can do great harm or good precisely because it is an abstraction, the condensation of many years, in some sense of thousands and thousands of years, of decisions, experiences, intentions, etc., that do not have to be re-thought and re-created all over again every time the question of power or means and ends comes up.

                For the same reason, true harm to the state understood in this way will tend to develop over time, on the basis of countless relatively minor shocks within the relatively very broad horizon of the life of the state or the people. Sometimes, or perhaps always sooner or later, this harm would be revealed in the form of real, palpable events (that many people will not have expected). By the time any such very grave, not or not merely abstract consequences arise – the war no one wanted, the disaster not averted, the political situation that seems to serve no one, and so on- it may be too late to do anything for those immediately affected. In other words, that “harm to the state” is an an abstract statement about abstractions relating to abstractions does not mean that true harm to the state may not imply very grave harm, including immediate harm, to real people: An obvious example would be if Snowden’s revelations significantly impaired anti-terrorist efforts, allowing an otherwise obstructable operation to go forward.

                For all I know this all still remains frustrating vague abstraction and pointless lecturing to you, but, from my perspective, it’s what you’ve demanded: This all is also contained in the vague abstractions of the state. The next set of questions would specifically concern the rule of law or the rule of law state, in comparison to the alternative state concepts openly or implicitly advocated by different Snowden backers, but I don’t want to go into them again if I’ve simply lost you again, or am overstaying my dialogical welcome, or would just be wasting my virtual breath, especially since I need to move on to other business.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to CK MacLeod says:

            Snowden’s crime seems to be that he told the truth to the American public, including Congress. If he’d have instead lied to us till he was blue in the face then he’d be smiled upon by the executive branch, and just as immune to prosecution as they are, including Holder, Rice, and Clapper. It’s not a good sign for the republic when lying to the people gets you promoted and telling the truth gets you jailed.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Ethan Gach says:

          BTW, Andy McCarthy at NRO has been defending the legality of the NSA’s activities, and here is a good rebuttal.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to CK MacLeod says:

        Wired has a piece on cyberwar that goes into the background of some of these programs.Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    “Who’s more dangerous: terrorists or toddlers with guns?” Neither. Stupid Parents are.Report

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