Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 31, 2009

Anatomy: Arm

I've been doing a lot of sketches of anatomy for my Life Drawing class, so I'll post a few of them for Your Viewing Pleasure.

Jul 30, 2009

My First Commission

I've been soliciting artistic work and I just finished the first design request. I know it's not perfect, one of my friends sent me a tutorial on creating flames in Illustrator that I'll have to try out, but I think it's not bad. I really am improving quite a lot.

Jul 24, 2009

On Parasitism

My friend Shamus just wrote an excellent article for the Escapist that really got me thinking. Here's the relevant bit, but read the whole thing:
So far there aren't any videogames called "Edge," so you should be good.
You release the game to the iPhone and it gets very favorable reviews and is praised as something unique and different in a sea of bland Bejeweled clones and Tetris knock-offs. Congratulations, you made it. You're a successful indie developer.
A little after launch, you get a letter from the lawyers of a guy named Tim Langdell. Langdell owns the "international trademark" for "Edge Gaming," and he claims you're infringing on his trademark by using the word "Edge" for your game. Your creation gets pulled from the Apple store.

One of the biggest problems people seem to have with the idea of capitalism is that it (supposedly) gives free reign to parasites like this Tim Langdell character. This is a huge misconception based on the idea that there's nothing to prevent people from engaging in activities that are morally questionable but not actually illegal. The Germans actually have a saying that encompasses this philosophy: "If it is not required, it is forbidden".

The best thing to do to protect yourself from people like this is exactly what Shamus has done here: GO PUBLIC. Complain loudly, unceasingly, and with large amounts of evidence. Or, do what The Chaos Engine has done and get together with others to blast the guy. There is no need to stoically submit to this indignity and no need to suffer endless lawsuit threats, either.

For my part, I'm having nothing whatsoever to do with the IGDA if they allow someone like this to sit on their board. It's like they're the United Nations of professional associations. I was considering looking into the student chapter at the University of Pittsburgh, but after this news, forget it.

Jul 16, 2009

Objectivim Blogs Roundup

It's over at Titanic Deck Chairs this week, and I actually submitted a post. I really should do that more often.

Jul 15, 2009

United Breaks Guitars

My dad sent me a link today to this great video produced by artist Dave Carroll. It's a fun song and also terribly amusing. I'm glad I never fly United. Usually I do USAir or (very rarely) Southwest "The Walmart of the Airways". If I'm hitting the East Coast, I'll fly JetBlue in preference to anything else. All three companies have been great to me, and while I've hit some delays with USAir in the past (both times getting stuck in an airport halfway home for an unreasonably long time), they've never once lost or damaged any piece of my luggage. In fact, the worst thing that ever happened was due to a very narrow squeak at a connection where I had to RUN all the way across the Minneapolis airport to get on another plane, so my luggage got left behind. A service guy drove from Columbus to my home in Dayton to hand-deliver said luggage IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FREAKIN' NIGHT. What a nice guy!

In general, I've found that the companies that have good customer service treat their employees well. That's not to say that their employees aren't overworked--I've had some great waitresses who were working a triple shift because of call offs. But the manager APPRECIATED what they were doing, so they stayed in a good mood regardless of the crazy schedule. This is because customer service is based on empathy and it's hard to have empathy for other people's problems when your boss is a stupid jackass and you've worked seven hours without a break because the person who made up the schedule can't do math.

Jul 10, 2009

Moral Thermostat?

Via Geekpress I encountered this fascinating article on the subject of temptation and why it may be harder to resist than people think. I'm not sure I agree with this premise, but it's certainly an interesting idea. If anything, this research seems to demonstrate why duty-based ethics just don't work. Guilt is not a motivating force. Willpower, as the article indicates, wears out.

I can certainly verify this from my own experience. When I do something, not because I want to, but because I "have" to, I get fed up. I do just enough to assuage the guilt and then abandon it to go do something I actually want to do. Often, I'll just *distract* myself from feeling guilty by becoming preoccupied with something else, and then, whoops, look where the time went. I think that this is what most of us are doing when we claim we were too busy to do something. We didn't want to do it, so we let other things interfere with our ability to do it. Sounds malicious, doesn't it? It's not. What's malicious is that we don't feel free to admit that we just don't want to do it.

There's more than one kind of not wanting to do something, of course. Sometimes it's because we know it's going to be work. Ayn Rand called this the "white tennis shoes" when it comes to writing. This is where willpower can actually be useful, because if you're like me, once you get started doing work you enjoy, you'll go and go and go and not notice--because it's fun. But it takes a constant exertion of willpower to do something you *don't* enjoy on *any* level, like, for me, doing a regular diet and exercise regimen. I *don't* like being hungry and nothing I can do will ever change that. The only diet I could ever successfully do is one where I'm *not* hungry and I don't have to spend large quantities of time thinking about it. Exercise is the same way. Oh, I enjoy *specific* activities, but after three or four days of a regimen I'm bored and it starts taking constant willpower for me to keep doing it. I'd need a "regimen" that was completely different every day--but that didn't require me to sit around trying to think up how to make it different, because I'd get bored with that, too.

As a side note, I know those things aren't impossible. I've been looking at the idea behind the "paleo" diet and I think I could do it if I had more control over what I was eating at the moment. Doing a sport or martial art would be sufficiently varied for exercise, too. I've done volleyball before and I didn't want to miss a practice no matter how much work it was. We only practiced twice a week, though, so it wasn't enough.

Anyway, the real way to avoid this problem is to avoid the trap of duty-based ethics altogether. "I really should" won't turn you into a moral person. Only rejecting the evil as truly *undesirable* leads to full morality. There's a great quote in Atlas Shrugged that conveys this idea completely (on page 720 in the Centennial Edition):

[A]nd they looked as if, should they encounter malevolence, they would reject it contemptously, not as dangerous, but as stupid, they would not accept it in bruised resignation as the law of existence.

Full morality *is* possible, there is no "moral thermostat" that prevents people from becoming too moral. You just have to know that evil is not desirable and that you do not become good by grudgingly rejecting it. Nor is good some duty you owe someone above, beyond, and against what you want--not some unpleasant chore to be performed and dispensed with as soon as possible. Once you fully understand the consequences of evil, you'll never feel tempted to engage in it, and you'll find it bizarre that anyone ever could be.