Thursday, September 30, 2010


Today is one of my favourite days of all time, (despite being a tradition that started last year). Today, September 30, is Blasphemy Day.

It would be fair to say that I fucking love being blasphemous. But, contrary to what you might think, this is not simply about the fact I like making fun of other people's gods. This is about freedom to express your opinions.

A few weeks ago, there was this huge thing about some idiot who wanted to burn Korans during the anniversary of the WTC attacks. Now, I hate book burning. I hate it with a passion I rarely experience. The symbol of book burning is the symbol saying "your ideas don't deserve to exist". Saying "We must destroy them". In a day where we have printing presses and e-books and etceteras, destroying one book (one you already own) has little to no effect on whether someone else will ever read it. It is, like I said, a symbol. A message. An opinion. One I happen to find repulsive and idiotic.

But you know what was worse than Pastor Fucktard saying he was going to burn a book? The reactions from people who think that book has magical powers. People who sent ungoddamned death threats to someone over burning books. It is at this point that people need to get a fucking sense of scale. Guy sending stupid message: Bad. Rabid fundies calling for his death: Orders of magnitude worse. The two don't even compare. They are not on the same scale.

Another idiot also decided to burn a Koran that same day. What happened? Someone stole it from him. My first reaction was "Good for the kid!". My second reaction was "Wait, did he steal a book from someone because he disagreed with him?". I got into an argument with several people over that one, whether it was the right thing to do or not. And my reply is no, it's not. Even though the idiot was arguing against free speech, freedom of opinion applies. Freedom to speak your mind even when people will find your opinion disgusting.

The reason I hate book burners is the same reason I defend their right to do it. Because I think that there's no such thing as an opinion that shouldn't be expressed. Book burners state their disagreement with that, and while I think they are hateful morons, I believe they have that right. People who violate a book burner's rights because they disagree with those views cross a line. The line that says "bad argument gets counter-argument, ideas are fought with ideas, and never do you challenge someone's views with force". I like that line. It's one of the few things that can come close to an absolute moral principle , in my philosophy. So, when people cross that line without a really fucking good reason, I get upset. And when people cross that line, and others defend them, in the name of free speech, something breaks in my brain.

You don't defend free speech by banning speech against it. It's a contradiction of epic proportions. It makes the whole point of free speech meaningless. While "defending free speech" sounds nice, people seldom realise what the term implies. It doesn't just mean you get the right to state your controversial ideas when they challenge the mainstream. It also means that everyone else does too. It means that, let's just throw a purely hypothetical situation here, when Phred Felps wants to protest a soldier's funeral say that fags burn in hell, you defend him against those trying to ban that. When William Richardson wants to say that Jews are trying to take over the world, you defend him against those trying to ban that. No mater how repulsive, or wrong, or offensive, or hateful, or bigoted, or retarded you find someone's opinion, if someone else tries to silence them by force, you defend them. That's exactly what you are agreeing to do when you say we should defend free speech.

In multiple countries around the world, there are laws against blasphemy. The UN has passed resolutions to "combat the defamation of religion", and I say, to hell with that. Blasphemy is a victimless crime. I have a right to tell you exactly how little I think of your religion, and so does everybody else. Even Koran burners, no matter how idiotic their motives. And that is what this day aims to remind us, that we should never let anyone stop anyone's right to express their opinions under the cause of "respecting other's beliefs". I will not respect beliefs that have not earned it. I will not demand that anyone respect my own, if they think I'm wrong. And I will continue to call your gods lies, imaginary, tyrants, evil, toddlers, excuses, fabrications and delusions. I will continue to call your religion superstition, bullshit, myth, fairy tale, moral abomination, philosophical absurdity, and anything else I think applies. And I will defend anyone else's right to do so.

So, remember, when you fight for free speech, you fight for yours and everyone else's. Remember that, every time you give your consent to violations of rights based on opinion, it is your own freedom you are condemning. Whenever you see someone saying something colossally stupid, and others move one single nanometre across the line, be very careful about whose side you take.

Happy Blasphemy Day, imaginary readers. May your prophets and gods be fucked sideways.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Evaluation: Ananke 9

Well, I did say I'd take the last two weeks off from writing. Though now I must deal with the unexpected.

As it turns out, I noticed a pretty big hole in my plot, which I've had to rework. Good news is, I found a way around it, bad news is, it completely screws all my estimates. So now I need to trace a new path, and I've changed the ending. More accurately, the event that was going to be the ending has been moved later in time, towards the next chapter.

A bit of world-building regarding spirits takes place, which is important for both Machi and Void's powers. I really need to develop Machi's powers more, because something as vague as "magic" can work in 2.3 bajillion different ways depending on the fictional universe. Furthermore, plenty of powers within my universe work based on magic to an extent (Void and La Sangrienta being prime examples), without being the kind of powers Machi has which I call "witch" or "mage". So at least some of groundwork has been lain for that.

Two new characters appeared in my head, Kimairas and Horizon. Their codenames are derived from two old characters which have some similarities with them (actually Horizon is more like Sidereal, but I like the other codename better). Shapeshifter and psychic team. Lots of fun with them, but they won't appear yet in the story. I mean, I have to be fair to Vortex and Samarkand and Assembler and Masker (though the last two got passing mentions so far). And poor Pheromone got part of her powers stolen from her, but I really want to limit the number of shapeshifters in the story, so she'll have to make do with the powers she has left. She'll manage.

Speaking of shapeshifters, and leaving my own writing for a moment, I really do love Mimeo, the latest superthreat in the Whateleyverse. Has some of that attitude to life I wish I could instil into my characters (not the not-killing part, of course). Curse them for continuously reminding me how much I suck!

Anyway, that's what I have for now. Might interrupt evaluations next week to post a fragment of the latest incarnation (third so far) of my work-in-progress fantasy novel. Might not. We'll see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Una de las personas citadas antes en referencia a una de sus cartas de lectores, resulta que tiene un blog, parece que dedicado a una filosofía que llama personalismo. Me llamó la atención, fui a ver que onda, y...

Mi impresión es que es una de esas filosofías superficialmente interesantes, cuando las mirás más de cerca te das cuenta que muchas de sus ideas no son lo que yo diría de las mejores. Hay una lista al respecto de ciertas ideas comunes entre los personalistas, copiada la Asociación Española de Personalismo. Ya saben lo que me gusta hacer con las listas...
1. Insalvable distinción entre cosas y personas que implica que las personas deben ser analizadas con categorías filosóficas específicas y no con categorías elaboradas para las cosas.
Una simplificación generalmente útil pero equivocada. Mi respuesta automática sería decir que las personas son cosas con ciertas propiedades particulares. En principio, ambas formulaciones son equivalentes, con la diferencia en definir "cosa" como una categoría que junta cosas-personas y cosas-no-personas. Pero la distinción va más allá. Aceptar que las personas y las cosas-no-personas son en principio cosas permite entender que no hay una separación marcada sino un espectro gradual de personalidad. Creo que ese es mi primer gran problema con el personalismo, que no acepten la existencia de cosas que no son personas pero se acercan. Considerando qué desacuerdo empezó todo esto (el aborto), parece bastante significativo. Pero sigamos.
2. La afectividad se considera una dimensión central, autónoma y originaria que incluye un centro espiritual que se identifica con el corazón.
Esto me confunde, más que nada. Asumo que "corazón" está siendo usado de modo simbólico y no refiriéndose al órgano que bombea sangre. Y quizás "espiritual" puede interpretarse de manera funcional y no fundamental. Pero sigo sin entender qué significa.
3. Importancia decisiva de la relación interpersonal y familiar en la configuración de la identidad personal.
OK, parece válido.
4. La cualidad más excelsa de la persona no es la inteligencia sino la voluntad y el corazón, lo que implica una primacía de la acción y permite dar una relevancia filosófica al amor.
No veo cómo podemos separar "la voluntad y el corazón" de la inteligencia. Es como decir que el álgebra es más importante que la matemática.
5. Recuperación de la corporeidad como dimensión esencial de la persona que, más allá del aspecto somático, posee también rasgos subjetivos y personales.
...¿Qué? O sea... No sé, no veo cual es la idea. Veo algo, pero no parece una declaración filosófica sino una observación obvia.

6. Existen dos modos de ser persona: hombre y mujer. La persona es una realidad dual y el carácter sexuado afecta al nivel corporal, afectivo y espiritual.
Y ya se fueron al carajo, por decirlo con delicadeza. Creo que ya dejé muy clara mi posición sobre la heteronormatividad implícita en este punto.
7. La persona es un sujeto social y comunitario, y su primacía ontológica está contrapesada por su deber de solidaridad.
Volviendo a lo relativamente inocuo. No dice mucho.
8. Los filósofos personalistas no conciben su filosofía como un mero ejercicio académico sino que buscan la transformación de la sociedad.
Ésa es la parte que me preocupa... pero no es particularmente original como idea. Supongo que la mayoría de las filosofías consideran que su utilidad es más que simplemente masturbación mental. (Sí, hay términos más agradables, pero no encuentro uno más acertado)
9. El personalismo postula una visión trascendente de la vida que se inspira culturalmente en la tradición judeocristiana pero siempre dentro del marco filosófico
Ugh. No hace falta que aclare lo que opino de la tradición judeocristiana. A este punto ya no creo que haya alguna idea rescatable que no sea trivial, aunque admito que por ahí eso es un prejuicio mío.
10. El personalismo entiende que la filosofía moderna ha conducido a errores relevantes como el idealismo pero también ha aportado novedades antropológicas irrenunciables como la subjetividad, la conciencia el yo o la reivindicación de la libertad.
No me dice mucho. O sea, sin saber las ideas detrás de la aceptación o rechazo de cada ejemplo no puedo formar una opinión sustancial al respecto.

Y eso es todo por ahora. Mi idea es hacer un par de comentarios en el sitio y ver qué pasa, visto y considerando que no termino de entender algunas ideas. Por ahí aprendo algo. O consigo material para bloggear. O al menos tengo una discusión interesante. Quién sabe.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On double wrongs

Suppose there's a certain system in place that for whatever reasons results in something you're against. Suppose, as well, that there is a loophole in this system that allows avoiding this undesirable outcome.

Too insubstantial? I'll try a more concrete example. Suppose that you oppose a specific punishment for moral reasons(My personal choice would be the death penalty, you can fill in the blanks with whatever you like). Bob McCriminal is going to get this punishment, but at the last minute, a key piece of evidence is misplaced and now this particular punishment is out of bounds. For some reason or another, you know about this and possess a copy of the relevant records, so you consider volunteering it (no, I don't know if any real justice system would work like this, it's just a thought experiment). You know Bob is guilty and in the spirit of the system, he should be punished. But, again, you think the punishment is immoral. So, do you volunteer the evidence, thus following the spirit of the system, or keep it to yourself, thus following your own personal ethics?

Another example. You're taking a class on [whatever subject]. You don't really give a shit about [whatever subject], and will forget everything ten minutes after the final, but you need it to take another class on a subject you do care about. Because you are so terribly clever, you find out that phrasing your answers in certain ways makes the professor more likely to think that you are right. In fact, you can improve your grade by 50% by carefully choosing your words (assume [whatever subject] is the kind of subject where the correctness of each answer is somewhat fuzzy). There's no specific rule against this, but I think we can all agree it falls under the general category of "cheating". Do you phrase your answers to get an easy passing grade, knowing that you'll remember exactly the same after the end of this class whether you pass legitimately or not? Or do you not?

I specifically tailored the examples so that in one you need to act to follow the spirit of the system, and in the other you have to refuse to act. People intuitively regard the morality of "action" and "inaction" differently even when they have the exact same result. But another major reason why answers may differ between scenarios is because of the amount of respect towards the established system and the rules behind it. That is, you'll be more likely to follow the spirit of the system if you believe that system is there for a good reason. So do try to think alternative scenarios, imaginary readers.

The point of this exercise, as the title gives away, is a reflection on the phrase "Two wrongs don't make a right". I disagree. I think two wrongs, under the right circumstances, can make a right. (I have a similar relationship with the whole "the end doesn't justify the means" business). For example, the first wrong, a system that allows the death penalty is countered, in my view, by the second wrong, a system that allows guilty people to skip punishment.

That is to say, my response to the first scenario is fuck the system, Bob doesn't get killed (or tortured or castrated or whatever you chose). It may feel like a criminal is "winning", and that mingles oddly with certain parts of me, but in the end I don't want people to die. Similar answer to the second one, while I may "feel" the wrongness intuitively, intellectually I cannot find any reason not cheating is preferable. My approach is teleological, someone with deontological views is likely to disagree.

But that's me, what about you? Assuming the "you" I'm addressing exists, which sounds rather unlikely.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Angry Mob Equations

A problem was recently put to me. Namely, a formula for determining the productivity of angry mobs given certain parameters. Never being one to shy away from offering useless but entertaining (to me) answers to complex questions, I set to work and came up with the following:

Given a mob of N number of people, we assume their productivity P depends on the ease of identifying their objectives (O), the tools to carry them out (T), and their motivation (M) given by P=O*T*M.

Now, O depends on visual skill (V), amount of visibility given by daylight (L), and the intellectual ability to identify their targets (I). Assume V is measured as visual acuity where 20/20 vision is 1. Daylight is measured in function of ideal light conditions, given as 1. And I is given as the skill to identify the target given information about it, where 1 is 100% odds of identifying targets given V*L=1. Since V*L*I varies for every member of the mob, and we only need one member to identify the targets, O(mob) is defined as V*L*I for the member of the mob with the greatest individual score.

T depends on F (fear inspired by the mob) and S (strategic skill of the mob). F depends on the sum of all W (weapon) and C (craziness) values of each individual mobber, but because F is a matter of human perception, Weber-Fechner law applies. Therefore we define F as ln (Σ(W+C)). S is the mob's skill, which depends on the leader of the mob (defined as the mobber with the greatest Charisma (Ch) score), and is diminished by the effect of groupthink (mob mentality), which in turn is diminished by the leader's ability to manipulate the mob and increased by the mob's dumbness (D). So S=S(leader)*N^(Ch-D). Thus we define T as F*S.

Finally, M is the mob's willingness to continue pursuit, which is given by the appropriateness of the background music (B) and the clash (K) between mob ideals and that which the targets represent. B is defined such that ideal background music is 1. K depends on how much the targets deviates from accepted cultural norms, calculated as the target's value vs the mob's value and assuming a vector space of X cultural norms. Thus Tv-Mv for every value, and K=sqrt((Tv1-Mv1)^2+(Tv2-Mv2)^2...(TvX-MvX)^2). M also depends on the previously defined values of N and D, thus M=B*K*N*D.

There you have it. P=O*T*M.

This is the original wording, as posted here. A number of minor corrections for style and clarity come to mind, but I think the original text deserves to be here in its pure, unadulterated glory.

Credit for the inspiration goes to Luna May. Blame goes strictly to me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


No evaluation this week, nor the next one, probably. This due to the fact I haven't written anything the last seven days, nor do I plan to before next Monday, though because of different reasons.

This week, I got sucked into Less Wrong. It's amazing how much your perception of your rationality can change. Or, rather, it isn't. Everyone likes to assume they are rational, evidence shows that at least a significant percentage are wrong. If you truly strive to be rational, then abandoning your old delusions about the adequacy of your thought processes is a must. I can say with at least some confidence that I'm closer to certain objectives than I was before, but I'm nowhere near done. So, point is, I have devoted the last week to constantly re-evaluating the way I think and finding flaws. I plan to expend a lot more time on that in the future. That cuts into my writing time, hence, no writing gets done.

Next week, though, that's mostly because of prioritising. Stuff needs to get done before next Monday, so no writing until then. Maybe some will happen Monday night. Who knows, I certainly don't.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Evaluation: Ananke 8

Internet decided to misbehave last night, so post today.

Last week has been more productive than usual, and by "usual" I mean the ones immediately preceding it, not those crazy times when I wrote 3 psychflares in one week. Ah, how I miss thee.

In any case. Plot! The plot of this arc (assuming "this arc" does indeed happen) has more or less been completely introduced. A few minor comments to be made and I think one or two things I could work out/improve/etc. but ultimately all the basic stuff is there. Also, a bit of character development, and (though it's not in what I wrote) I figured out some backstory for Lightedge which I hope will help his character make sense. Oh, also Samarkand's powers, though they won't be appearing this chapter.

Some hints at Void and 7Dash's relationship, which is not that big a deal, but should show eventually. Also universe backstory, which is a pain in the ass because I never know when I'm contradicting myself there, even though I keep handy file with notes on that. Can't really keep track of what details come up in conversation, especially when they are only implied and not outright stated. But I think it's coherent, so far.

Bad stuff! The pace of the earlier scenes is all wrong, I've been noticing. I think I should either interrupt the conversations with a bit more action, or at least prolong them so they don't seem rushed. The first one is the ideal, but I'm not quite sure how to pull it off. That's all stuff for the later editing, though, right now I want to get all the events typed out and clear. Once I manage that, I'll work into the details. Or decide to ignore them and publish what I have, but probably not.

There's one other thing I'm not quite sure about, and it's frustrating because it's something I wrote. I'm hinting at something and I don't know what it is I'm hinting at. Or rather I do, but I think I had a better idea about that earlier. I'll have to work on that again, but it's not too difficult, I'm hoping.

And there's a scene I'm debating whether I should keep it or not. It's useful, both plot-wise and transition-wise, but it might fit better in a later episode. Problem is that this one kinda deviated from the original plan, so the scene is a bit out of place. It was a positive change, as far as I'm concerned, but it screwed up my outline. (This is why I don't plan ahead, my writing isn't good at fitting outlines).

All in all, pretty positive developments. Two more weeks, I think, before editing time starts. But that might just be the planning fallacy talking, I know I don't have any solid data to make this forecast. We shall see.