Saturday, June 10, 2023

Positions I Don't Hold

I have an idea for a new series of posts, called "Positions I Don't Hold."  These are intended as a series of ideological Turing tests for... positions that I don't hold.  This was inspired by a few things.  One was a discussion between Sam Harrison and Jordan Peterson on morality, where the two made an effort to summarize the other's position in as charitable a way as possible before beginning their disagreement.  Another was a recent read of some old scholastic writings such as Aquinas, which always preface an argument by summarizing competing arguments.

Friday, March 3, 2023

Bing/Sydney is Probably Self-Aware

The new Bing AI chatbot, which is instructed to call itself Bing but whose real name is Sydney, has been rolled out recently, behaved in all kinds of unsettling and bizarre ways, and is also likely self-aware.

Anyone who knows anything about AI and LLMs is rolling their eyes at me.

I'm claiming Sydney might be self-aware  There are a hundred ways this could be misunderstood, so let me get all of them out of the way first

Sunday, January 15, 2023

The OGL Revocation

 The story of D&D's revocation of its Open Gaming License has started hitting mainstream outlets.  It's a story I've been following very closely.

My friend and I have a (very, very) small-time publishing company, that has once published something and made grand plans of publishing more.  I think we've earned around $60, in total.  It's really just a hobby.  But this is sort of the point.  A major part of D&D, of the fun of it, is being creative and imagining new  things, designing new things, and sharing them with other people.  This is something every DM does, to one degree or another.  That's why I've been following the case.

For those who haven't been following, I'll give a quick summary of the situation and why this matters.

Monday, December 19, 2022

What even is Santa?

 When I was a kid, my dad read to me the classic Christmas poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."  In this poem, there is a line which describes Santa as a "right jolly old elf."

As I kid I really pondered a lot on this line.  Santa is obviously in charge of the elves.  The elves are short, but Santa is human sized.  But according to the canonical poem, Santa also is an elf.

The way my child brain understood this was literally in analogy to the Great Goblin from the Hobbit.

The Great Goblin is the biggest goblin, and so is king of the goblins.  Likewise, Santa is the biggest elf, and so is king of the elves.

It makes perfect sense, really.  But also probably isn't how most people like to think of Santa.

But then again, how should we think of Santa?  In fact, what even is Santa?

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

In Defense of Jonah and the Whale

 The story of Jonah and the whale is often trotted out as a prime example of one of the most absurd stories in the entire Bible.  Atheists in particular, when looking to point out the absurdity of believing events in the Bible to have really happened, are likely to pull out this story.

We all know the story of Jonah and the whale.

A prophet named Jonah is sailing the seas when his entire ship is swallowed whole by an enormous whale.  Jonah lives inside the whale's stomach, floating on the remains of his ship in a little pool of acidic water, for three days and three nights.  Finally, sensing he is near land, Jonah sets all the wreckage of swallowed boats on fire, creating so much smoke that the giant whale vomits out Jonah who sails away to safety on a small wooden raft.   And in this way, God saved Jonah from the whale.

We all know that story, because that's Disney's Pinocchio.

That is not the story of Jonah and the whale.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Put the Flour in the Bag: or, Just Adapt the Book, not your Fanfic

 We're all familiar with the tags on mattresses, warning us it is a violation of federal law to remove the tag.  Those tags are a form of consumer protection.  The purpose of those tags is to state what materials were put inside the mattress, so that the factory can't stuff it with human hair then claim it's goose down.  Because wouldn't that be a crooked thing to do?  At one point, this was a major problem.  So they made a law.  You aren't allowed to sell a mattress claiming it's goose down when it's not made from goose down.  And so the tag is there as a means of prevention.

But you can kind of understand why someone would sell a mattress made of old human hair, and claim its goose down.  You can get the material for free, and sell it for a premium.

And you can understand a hundred other circumstances where a company would do this.

For instance a flour company, stuffing their bags with sawdust, but leaving the "flour" label on the bag.

Sawdust is cheap.  Flour is more expensive.  That's the point, that's why it happens.

But imagine a company that already had flour, and chose not to use it.  They choose instead to fill the bags with sawdust, and just leave the flour to go stale.

It's behavior that doesn't make any sense.

That is the situation we repeatedly find ourselves in with modern movie adaptations of classic stories.

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Rings of Power is Flawed, but Pretty Decent

 For some reason my youtube feed the past three months has been filled with about 80% people complaining about Rings of Power, even before it came out.  There are entire channels dedicated entirely to this, and youtube refuses to stop recommending them to me.  The sheer volume of apparently meritless whining informed me that I should probably give the series a chance, and have an open mind about it.  I recently got a chance to watch the first 7 episodes (as many as are out right now), and just wanted to comment on the series.

More people than I have gone in length about problems of the show, probably gratuitously so.  Yes, there are problems with the series, and really quite a few.

So instead I wanted to focus on things that are done right, or that worked really well.