Predicting Human Civilization

Two days ago, a Redditor going by the name Lycerius posted the result of his playing the same game of Civilization II for almost ten years. In his words, “There are 3 remaining super nations in the year 3991 A.D, each competing for the scant resources left on the planet after dozens of nuclear wars have rendered vast swaths of the world uninhabitable wastelands.” His description is powerful, ominous, and hilarious, which seems a perfect microcosm of Reddit itself. The first thing that popped into my head was the post artfully spliced together the key themes of my two favorite novels, 1984 and Foundation. 1984 for the three super nations locked in an eternal struggle, told from the point of view of a communist totalitarian state, and Foundation for the process of running a model of human behavior into the future. The next thing that hit me was that the social graph may very well be the key to bringing order to the galaxy.

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Unskippable Warnings, Piracy, and Dead Hands

Last week, the US government announced that DVDs and Blu-rays will all now have two more unskippable piracy warnings, of ten seconds each. As quoted in Ars Technica, the director of  Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE), John Morton says there’s a valid and noble purpose to this. ”Law enforcement must continue to expand how it combats criminal activity; public awareness and education are a critical part of that effort.” So this isn’t to directly combat piracy, but to educate the rest of us calmly and dutifully buying this product. Guess what I think of this.

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Glide Paths and Direct Paths to Gay Marriage

Yesterday, President Obama said in an interview with ABC News that he thinks “same sex couples should be able to marry.” While this statement may seem to be as obvious as saying “the sky is blue” or “the sun rises in the east,” it nonetheless stands out because it hasn’t been said by an American president before. Obama continued to explain why it’s taken so long for him to come up with this truth we otherwise hold to be self-evident. He contextualized the idea by generation, saying that his children’s friends have same-sex parents, and it wouldn’t dawn on them that they would be treated any differently. This is interesting, since it provides a ready glide-path to allow anti-gay marriage people to change their minds gracefully. As in actually change their minds. This seems to be a practical approach. I happen to disagree.

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Brogrammers, Sexism, and Inaction in SoMa

Last week, Tasnim Raja, Mother Jones‘s digital interactive editor, wrote an eye-opening piece highlighting Silicon Valley’s Brogrammer Problem. The article relays several public references at conferences and Twitter of “gangbang interviews” and “bikini shots.” The piece was liked, shared, retweeted, and otherwise digested and commented on, and arrived on my screen via IM. I was surprised at it, and thought the men quoted sounded like asses, and was on the verge of moving onto the next thing, when the IM continued. “You know, this is all over the game industry too.” This percolated a bit, and I realized, it’s true.

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One Copy of TurboTax For All

This isn’t a full article. It’s not even my idea. It’s a co-worker’s idea. Plus it’s about taxes. Do you really want me to take another whack at rewriting the tax code? Probably not. But holy crap. This is good. The IRS should buy one copy of TurboTax, load in our taxes, run a preliminary tax filing, and then let us log in online and tweak as we see fit.

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Homophobia, Core Gamers, and Reality

First, EA BioWare’s Mass Effect 3 had an expanded gay plot line, causing gamers to give the game a 38 user rating on Metacritic, a game the actual critics gave an 89. Then the same studio got hit by a letter-writing campaign from the Florida Family Association for including gay characters in Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA and Lucasfilm responded with a Yoda-endorsed counter-campaign on Allout.org. The cynics among us might first think this is really a reaction to EA’s disastrous PR snafu in being named by the Consumerist as the worst company in the world. As far as I can tell, that result had more to do with a clunky debut of Origin, and people getting upset it’s not Amazon. EA’s PR had a nice bit of perspective about that, commenting that BP, AIG, Philip Morris, and Halliburton must have been glad they weren’t nominated. Granted, EA can’t say too much, or they come off a little sour grapes. Well, I don’t work there anymore, and I can say pretty much what I want now. And here’s what I think of all this.

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Bicyclists, Pick a Ruleset

Bicyclists, pick a ruleset. Or get off my lawn. Seriously. This has bothered me for the decade and a half that I’ve lived in San Francisco, and until now I’ve been resigned to joke that it’s the one thing that makes me slightly conservative in San Francisco. What’s going on? It’s simply that bicyclists just don’t follow traffic rules. They don’t stop at stop signs. They act as if they have the immunity of pedestrians, but the access of cars. They dart in and around traffic when they’re riding in regular traffic lanes. They slow cars down when the regular flow of traffic is at the posted speed limit and a bicyclist suddenly appears trudging along at 10mph. Bicycles sometimes wiggle on start, causing cars to dart to avoid them, causing an oncoming traffic hazard.  And bicyclists act with extreme indignation if you honk at them. Factor in the monthly Critical Mass event, in which bicyclists deliberately swarm Market Street and spread out, violating traffic rules, in order to disrupt commuter traffic, and we have a real-life conservative slippery slope scenario. But things have become decidedly un-funny since March 29, when a bicyclist hit and killed a pedestrian.

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No Taxation Without User Selection

Ah, taxes. They suck. They were even unconstitutional, until Congress cooked up a Constitutional amendment explicitly permitting the government to tax income. But for the purposes of what I want to talk about today, I’m going to let that go for now. We all have to file taxes or we get Willie Nelsoned. To be fair, the experience has improved. I downloaded TurboTax from Amazon, instead of buying the CD-ROM, although I noticed it was also available on Google Play for Android. I’m not sure I want to do my taxes on a tablet, but hey, choice is good. TurboTax ia also available through the browser, but I’m not sure I want to trust my tax preparation to the cloud. They already know everything about me already, but I’d like to have them jump through at least one hoop to get it. Doing taxes today is easy, but it still isn’t nice. The delivery and automation is 21st Century, but the user relationship is still very 19th Century. That’s what’s in the reticule today.

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Boycott Daylight Savings, Support Real Time

Okay, enough of this crap. Ostensibly, Daylight Savings Time (“DST”) exists to move one hour of daylight from the morning to the evening, so we can do more in the evening. There’s also a lot of specious rationalizations about it improving energy efficiency and lowering the crime rate, but these reasons are patently nonsensical. Just because Ben Franklin thought it up, isn’t a reason to keep it around. It’s the 21st Century, we don’t need some hoary old wives’ tale governing our timing.

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A Righteous Rant On Rights

I’m a big fan of the red, white and blue, but democracy sure has some unfortunate side effects. Each person expects a say in a democratic system, but that’s impractical in a gerrymandered universe. The more realistic interpretation is a system of fiefdoms, minor constituencies that must be sewn together to forge a majority.

Gee whiz PwnLaw, so what does this all have to do with video games?

Excellent query dear reader. Allow me to establish a connection. Our system of government ensures that our favorite passtime will be consistently screwed by poorly conceived, hastily drafted and generally fuktastic legislation. Continue reading