Monday, March 28, 2016

When video game critics and I disagree

Every year, literally thousands of new video games are published. Even if we discard completely sub-par amateur trash, we are still talking about several hundreds of video games every year that could potentially be very enjoyable to play. It is, of course, impossible to play them all, not to talk about it being really expensive. There are only so many games one has the physical time to play.

So how to choose which games to buy and play? This is where the job of video game critics comes into play. If a game gets widespread critical acclaim, there's a good chance that it will be really enjoyable. If it gets negative reviews, there's a good chance that the game is genuinely bad and unenjoyable.

A good chance. But only that.

And that's sometimes the problem. Sometimes I buy a game expecting it to be really great because it has received such universal acclaim, only to find out that it's so boring or so insufferable that I can't even finish it. Sometimes such games even make me stop playing them in record time. (As I have commented many times in previous blog posts, I hate leaving games unfinished. I often even grind through unenjoyable games just to get them finished, because I hate so much leaving them unfinished. A game has to be really, really bad for me to give up. It happens relatively rarely.)

As an example, Bastion is a critically acclaimed game, with very positive reviews both from critics and the general gaming public. I could play it for two hours before I had to stop. Another example is Shovel Knight. The same story repeats, but this time I could only play for 65 minutes. Especially the latter was so frustrating that I couldn't bother to play it. (And it's not a question of it being "retro", or 2D, or difficult. I like difficult 2D platformer games when they are well made. For example, I loved Ori and the Blind Forest, as well as Aquaria, Xeodrifter and Teslagrad.)

Sometimes it happens in the other direction. As an example, I just love the game Beyond: Two Souls for the PS4. When I started playing it, it was so engaging that I played about 8 hours in one sitting. I seldom do that. While the game mechanics are in some aspects a bit needlessly limited, that's only a very small problem in an otherwise excellent game.

Yet this game has received quite mixed reviews, with some reviewers being very critical of it. For example, quoting Wikipedia:
IGN gaming website criticised the game for offering a gaming experience too passive and unrewarding and a plot too muddy and unfocused. Joystiq criticised the game's lack of solid character interaction and its unbelievable, unintentionally silly plot. Destructoid criticised the game's thin character presentation and frequent narrative dead ends, as well as its lack of meaningful interactivity. Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation was heavily critical of the game, focusing on the overuse of quick time events, the underuse of the game's central stealth mechanics, and the inconsistent tone and atmosphere.
And:
In November 2014, David Cage discussed the future of video games and referred to the generally negative reviews Beyond received from hardcore gamers.
Needless to say, I completely disagree with those negative reviews. If I had made my purchase decision (or, in this case, the decision not to purchase) based on these reviews, I would have missed one of the best games I have ever played. And that would have been a real shame.

This is a real dilemma. How would I know if I would enjoy, or not enjoy, a certain game? I can mostly rely only on reviews, but sometimes I find out that I completely disagree with them. This both makes me buy games that I don't enjoy, and probably makes me miss games that I would enjoy a lot.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

What can be done about jihadism in Europe?

There is an interesting article at vox.com about the Brussel's attack, and how radical islamism and jihadism has risen not only outside, but also inside of Europe itself. The gist of it is that we have allowed a situation where there are essentially immigrant/islamic ghettos within our cities, the people in these ghettos are forming isolated communities that have a very separationist mentality, and they are radicalizing themselves. They are being preached by radical islamists into hating the west, the very countries they live in. This is one of the reasons why so many terrorist attacks are actually committed by jihadists who are citizens of the country, sometimes even second or third generation (ie. they were themselves born, or even their parents may have been born, in the country, and thus they are natural-born citizens.) Not all terrorist attacks are committed by foreigners coming from the outside into the country for the express intent of committing the attack. The problem is aggravated by the fact that in most European countries there aren't enough resources to combat this: Police and special task forces are growing thin as they are, and the global economic crisis is not doing any favors either. Not to talk about the economic and social impact of the migrant crisis.

The question arises: What could be done about it? In practice, or even in theory.

The problem with this is that anything that could be done would break one or several of the core principles of our free constitutional societies.

Should we just ban islamic preaching? This would blatantly break the constitutional principle of freedom of religion. Should we dismantle the immigrant ghettos and force their inhabitants to move elsewhere? Again, this goes against the constitutional principle that everybody should have the freedom to live wherever they want, and not be forced by society to live somewhere else. Should we just deport all muslims? This just cannot be done for natural-born citizens (especially since there is nowhere to deport them to; they don't have a home country other than their current one, where they were born). For immigrants who have got citizenship this is not so clear-cut (because they have a country of origin), but still has problematic consequences from a constitutional and human rights perspective. Deporting non-citizens is a possibility, but then it becomes a question of who should and shouldn't be deported. Certainly we can't deport people simply because of their religion (which would, once again, be blatantly unconstitutional.)

Closing our borders for all immigration is, perhaps, the only action that's not blatantly unconstitutional (for any constitution I know of). However, while it might help a bit, it's not going to fix the problems we already have. There are already radical islamist ghettos in our countries, and they are becoming larger and more numerous by the day. Cutting the influx of immigrants is not going to change that by much.

Maybe there is no solution to the problem. Maybe we have already f***ed up ourselves beyond all hope. Maybe jihadism and terrorism has become an integral part of European society, and there's little we can do about it. Maybe it's too late to do anything about it, at least without us regressing to anti-constitutional totalitarianism.

The only future I see for Europe is either total economic collapse, which would plummet Europe into complete chaos where nobody is safe, and millions of people will have to live in poverty and die from starvation, with probably islamists making coups d'etats all over Europe, or the rise of one or more extreme right regimes akin to nazi Germany of the 1930's and 40's, and possibly ensuing civil wars. Either way, the idyllic constitutional free welfare states of Europe, which we built during the last 50 years, will be gone.

We are f***ed. And we mostly did this to ourselves.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Was Justin Trudeau's selection of the Cabinet of Canada unconstitutional?

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, prides himself for having appointed a Cabinet of Canada with "equal representation", which means that half of the members are women and half are men. This was not just coincidence, but his political agenda for years, and his full purposeful intent.

But consider that from 184 current MP's, only 50 are women. In other words, the Cabinet has not the same male-female representation as the parliament. Which means that many of the members of the cabinet were deliberately chosen due to their gender, which means that other potential candidates were discriminated against. To my knowledge, Trudeau has never claimed that the Cabinet was chosen purely based on merit and expertise; the only message that Trudeau has ever given is that the Cabinet was deliberately chosen to have 50-50 representation (implying that expertise and personal merit was only a secondary factor.)

When you elect, or don't elect, people based on their gender as a primary factor, considering competence for the position only a secondary factor, that's textbook preferential treatment and gender-based discrimination.

But is it unconstitutional, according to the Constitution of Canada? This is actually a more difficult question than one might at first imagine.

The relevant clauses are in Act 15:
Equality before and under law and equal protection and benefit of law
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Affirmative action programs
(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
Personally I consider subsection 2 to be at the very least borderline contradictory with subsection 1, but that's not here nor there. We will simply accept the Canadian Constitution as it is.

Note, however, that subsection 2 allows for "affirmative action" for individuals who are "disadvantaged". The question thus becomes: Can those female MP's be objectively considered "disadvantaged" in the sense that the Constitution refers to? Were they disadvantaged in a manner that made them deserving of affirmative action (and thus, consequently, causing potential gender-based discrimination against some male MP's)?

How exactly were these female MP's "disadvantaged"? "All women are disadvantaged" is not a good-enough argument. These particular women were clearly not. After all, they were elected to parliament, ie. some of the highest positions in the country. Quite clearly they are not very "disadvantaged". One could quite well say, if we use feminist terminology, that they are quite privileged.

It would be interesting to see a legal case made against Trudeau, where he would have to make an actual solid argument of why those female MP's were "disadvantaged" and thus in need of affirmative action. Unfortunately, I don't think we will see this in a million years.

Personally, I think that Trudeau's actions were discriminatory and thus in breach of the Constitution of Canada. Favoritism based on gender, regarding competence only as a secondary factor, is not acceptable in a free equal society. It is the very definition of sexism.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

When will SJW's commit the first act of terrorism?

Social justice, especially in the United States, is becoming more and more radical and extremist, and more and more like a fundamentalist cult. Just read the Campus Reform website for tidbits of the most insane things they are doing.

These people have already become so radicalized that their protests and demonstrations are becoming more and more violent by the day. In fact, many of them outright harass and even commit acts of physical aggression already.

It will be only a matter of time before they become so radicalized that they will start committing actual acts of terrorism. The kind of terrorism that leaves dozens, if not even hundreds of people dead. Mark my words. It will inevitably happen. It may be a mass shooting, or a bomb, or something similar, but something like that is likely to happen sooner or later, committed in the name of social justice.

If Donald Trump happens to be elected president of the United States (I have no idea at this point if he will, but I think he won't; but it's always possible), I'm willing to bet that he is a likely target of these upcoming terrorist attacks.

To social justice warriors Trump is pretty much Hitler. They are saying it themselves.

Ask a social justice warrior that if they could go back in time, with a gun, and had Hitler in front of them before he became the nazi leader, if they would kill him.

Well, now consider that they think that Trump is pretty much Hitler.

The first terrorist attacks by social justice warriors might be delayed if Trump does not get elected (which I think will likely be the case, although you never know), but I'm still sure that it will happen at some point. It's only a matter of time.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Another negative side-effect of Augmented Reality crap

I have already written about how they are taking virtual reality headsets too far, and how they are thus too expensive and too full of useless cruft. Recently I have noticed a third drawback of concentrating their efforts to much on the augmented reality crap:

Many people now think that the augmented reality part is the only way to use the VR headsets, and writing about the negative aspects of that. It is, in fact, being compared to the infamous Kinect for being a similar gimmick (requiring a lot of space, rearranging your room, causing accidents and so on.)

The problem is that they are hyping the VR headsets with their AR capabilities. In fact, they are over-hyping it to the extreme. These AR hype videos make for cool and at the surface exciting demonstrations... but it has also had the side-effect that now many people think that's the only and main way of using the VR headsets, and are turned off by the prospect of it being too inconvenient. They don't have the space, they don't want to rearrange their rooms... and they are realizing that, as I myself have been saying, it will be something they will play for maybe an hour or two before getting tired of it.

It seems that they have completely forgotten the original idea of the VR headsets: To play games (actual games, not just games made specifically for VR) using the headset, while sitting on your couch or chair, with head-tracking to look around. That always was the main purpose of these visors, and still is, but they don't make for such exciting hype videos, so it seems that they have completely shoved aside that actual practical aspect of them, and concentrated all their efforts on the useless augmented reality crap. And now people think that the AR crap is the only way to use the visors.

This is going to bite them in the ass.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Translation vs. localization vs. botching

I have written previously about the difficulty of translation and localization. Appropriate translation/localization of works to another language can be a surprisingly difficult and arduous job. However, sometimes companies go too far, for several possible reasons, and just botch the whole thing to unacceptable levels.

Translating something to another language, from a purist point of view, is to reflect in the target language as accurately as possible what was said in the original language. The more closely the translation matches in meaning the original, the better. And, rather obviously, absolutely nothing of the original should be added or removed, unless it's absolutely necessary and there is no other option. (In some rare cases it may be outright impossible to translate something accurately, and conveying the exact meaning would require extensive amounts of ancillary explanations, which may be completely unsuitable for most media.)

Purists, who want an accurate translation, do not want anything changed, even if it's something that's completely exclusive to the original language or its culture. You often see this in fan translations of Japanese anime, often with even highly obscure terms and expressions left intact, and sometimes even lengthy translator explanations describing their meaning.

Most often, however, exact translations are pretty much exclusive to legal texts, contracts, and other similar formal documents, where accuracy, and conveying the meaning as accurately as possible, is of the utmost importance.

Most works, however, cannot afford this luxury. If you are, for example, dubbing a movie or cartoon made in another language, you only have so much flexibility to explain things (which is usually none at all). Even if you are subtitling such a work, there's still only limited amount of space you can use for explanations (and, in most works, due to convention, only what is said is subtitled, with no translator notes, save for very rare exceptions.) Translating a book may offer more flexibility, because with books a footnote is much easier and more natural. Thus books may offer a better chance at more accurate translations; however, even then this is not done very often, at least not with books of fiction, unless the accurate translation is somehow crucial to the plot.

For this reason translations of most works of fiction resort to localization. This means that things that do not translate well, or do not have a literal translation, are changed to something that people of the target audience will understand better.

The mildest form of localization happens when translating things like sayings and wordplay. A literal translation usually wouldn't make much sense, so the closest equivalent in the target language is usually used instead. (As an example, the English expression "kick the bucket" would probably not convey the same meaning to almost any other language if translated literally. Thus translations to other languages will change it to a local equivalent; or if there is no equivalent expression, then just a direct non-euphemism.)

Of course sometimes even in these mildest cases the translators may face some difficulty. Assume this conversation between two characters:

Person A: "Unfortunately he kicked the bucket."
Person B: "Why did he do that? Did he hurt his foot?"

This kind of wordplay can be extraordinarily difficult to localize to many languages, and translators often have to resort to very inventive workarounds, to keep the conversation fluent. In some cases they might even have to resort to changing the conversation completely, leaving nothing of the original joke in it at all, and inventing their own. An extremely lazy translator might just opt for a literal translation, but that would be just amazingly lazy and bad.

Of course even when localizing a work, the translator should try to keep as faithful as possible to the original, and make changes only when it's absolutely necessary, rather than spuriously.

But then, there are the botched localizations. The localizations where radical changes are made that cannot be justified with a simple "the literal translation wouldn't work in the target language". Things may be cut. Things may be changed for reasons other than fluency and understandability, such as political or cultural reasons. In some cases the translators may have a patronizing attitude towards their audience (ie. of the kind "they wouldn't understand this; let's change it or remove it completely".) Sometimes there may even be outright censorship, because the translator thinks that something is inappropriate, or would cause protest in the target audience.

And sometimes radical changes are done for no discernible reason at all. Sometimes it feels like the translator completely changed something just for the sake of it, even though the original was perfectly fine, and would have had a perfectly good translation that didn't even need localizing. Maybe the translator felt like wanting to introduce his own footprint into the work, or something.

Especially in the 80's and the early 90's this mentality sometimes went to absolutely ridiculous extents. For example the producer and writer Carl Macek became infamous for taking Japanese anime series, and completely re-cutting them and replacing the entire storyline and dialogue to something completely different. Sometimes he even took two different series and used pieces of footage from both, and merged them into a story (that usually had nothing to do with either original.)

In less extreme, but equally obnoxious cases, something that to some extent happens to this day, translators may still re-cut the original work and radically change the dialogue, even to the point of changing the story. In some cases people feel that the intent is to remove even the semblance of the original culture (eg. Japanese culture) and completely westernize the work. Whenever there is any mention of something that's particular to the original culture, it's replaced with a westernized version, them sometimes even going so far as to replace the images on screen. And, of course, they will freely cut anything that they don't like, with complete disregard to preserving the original work.

In some cases it's not that extreme, but can still be hilariously bad. For example one company that localized the Pokémon anime series to the United States went the extra mile to remove any references to Japanese culture from the series. The result was often ridiculous, hilarious, and obnoxious. Such as the infamous scenes where they replaced Japanese rice balls with "donuts" and "sandwiches", even going so far as to overlay the original images with their own versions. Because, you know, American kids have no idea what a rice ball is, and would probably be very upset about it. Or something. And heaven forbid they get curious about it. We aren't trying to teach them anything here!

Nowadays the biggest source of grievance with botched translations happens mostly with video games, especially those made in Japan. Things are changed, cut and censored. And sometimes the changes are completely nonsensical, and do not have any reason to exist (because there was nothing difficult or objectionable about the original text.)

There was a period in the mid-to-late-2000's where translator companies actually started caring about accuracy, and preserving the original work as much as possible. However, nowadays it seems that botched translations are making somewhat of a resurgence, probably caused by social justice warriors. Translators are becoming afraid of offending the 0.1% of the population that's most vocal about such things (and which by and large doesn't even consist of gamers.) Thus the remaining 99.9% of the population has to suffer because of them.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The genius of Doom and Quake

Again, not something that grinds my gears, but in a way another entry in this "the genius of (some game franchise)" two-parter (the first one being about Pokémon games.)

I have previously written about id Software, and wondered what happened to them. They used to be pretty much at the top of the PC game developers (or at the very least, part of the top elite). Their games were extremely influential in PC gaming, especially the first-person shooter genre, and they were pretty much the company that made the genre what it is today. While perhaps not necessarily the first ones to invent all the ideas, they definitely invented a lot of them, and did it right, and their games are definitely the primary source from which other games of the genre got their major game mechanics. Most action-oriented (and even many non-action oriented) first-person shooter games today use most of the same basic gameplay designs that Doom and especially Quake invented, or at least helped popularize.

But what made them so special and influential? Let me discuss a few of these things.

We have to actually start from id Software's earlier game, Wolfenstein 3D. The progression is not complete without mentioning it. This game was still quite primitive in terms of the first-person shooter genre, both with severe technical limitations, as well as gameplay limitations, as the genre was still finding out what works and what doesn't. One of the things that Wolfenstein 3D started to do, is to make the first-person perspective game a fast-paced one.

There had been quite many games played from the first-person perspective before Wolfenstein 3D, but the vast majority (if not all) of them were very slow-paced and awkward, and pretty much none of them had the player actually aim by moving the camera (with some possible exceptions). There were already some car and flight simulators and such, but they were not shooters really. Even the airplane shooter genre played from the first-person perspective were usually a bit awkward and sluggish, and they usually lacked that immersion, that real sense of seeing the world from the first-person perspective. (In most cases this was, of course, caused by the technical limitations of the hardware of the time.)

Wolfenstein might not have been the first game that started the idea of a fast-paced shooter from the first-person perspective, where you aim by moving the camera, but it certainly was one of the most influential ones. Although not even nearly as influential as id Software's first huge hit, Doom.

Doom was even more fast-paced, had more and tougher enemies, and was even grittier. (It of course helped that game engine technology had advanced by that point to allow a much grittier environment, with a bit more realism). And gameplay in Doom was fast! It didn't shy away from having the playable character (ie. in practice the "camera") run at a superhuman speed. And it was really a shooter. Tons of enemies (especially with the hardest difficulty), and fast-paced shooting action.

Initially Doom was still experimenting with its control scheme. It may be hard to imagine it today, but originally Doom was controlled with the cursor keys, with the left and right cursors actually turning the camera, rather than strafing. There was, in fact, no strafe buttons at all. There was a button which, when pressed, allowed you to strafe by pressing the left and right cursor keys (ie. a kind of mode switch button), but it was really awkward to use. By this point there was still no concept of the nowadays ubiquitous WASD key scheme (with the A and D keys being for strafing left and right).

In fact, there was no mouse support at all at first. Even later when they added it, it was mostly relegated to a curiosity for most players. As hard as it might be to believe, the concept of actually using the mouse to control the camera had yet not been invented for first-person shooters. It was still thought that you would just use the cursor keys to move forward and back, and turn the camera left and right (ie. so-called "tank controls").

Of course since it was not possible to turn the camera up or down, the need for a mouse to control the camera was less.

Strafing in first-person shooters is nowadays an essential core mechanic, but not back in the initial years of Doom.

Quake was not only a huge step forward in terms of technology, but also in terms of gameplay and the control scheme. However, once again, as incredible as it might sound, the original Quake still was looking for that perfect control scheme that we take so much for granted today. If you were to play the original Quake, the control scheme would still be very awkward. But it was already getting there. (For example, now the mouse could be used by default to turn the camera, but only sideways. You had to press a button to have free look... which nowadays doesn't make much sense.) It wouldn't be until Quake 2 that we get pretty much the modern control scheme (even though with the original version of the game the default controls still were a bit awkward, but mostly configurable to a modern standard setup.)

Quake could, perhaps, be considered the first modern first-person shooter (other than for its awkward control scheme; which was fixed in later iterations, mods and ports). It was extremely fast-paced, with tons of enemies, tons of shooting, tons of explosions and tons of action. It also pretty much established the keyboard+mouse control scheme as the standard scheme for the genre. Technically it of course looks antiquated (after all, the original Quake wasn't even hardware-accelerated; everything was rendered using the CPU, which in that time meant the Pentium. The original one. The 60-MHz one.) However, the gameplay is very reminiscent of a modern FPS game.

Doom and especially Quake definitely helped define an entire (and huge) genre of PC games (a genre that has been so successful, that it has even become a staple of game consoles, even though you don't have a keyboard and mouse there.) They definitely did many things right, and have their important place in the history of video games.

There is no such a thing as "reverse racism" or "reverse sexism"

Many feminists like to spout that there is no such thing as "reverse racism" or "reverse sexism". For once, I happen to agree. However, I don't agree with that statement for the same reason as they do.

"Reverse racism" and "reverse sexism" make exactly as much sense as "reverse murder", "reverse theft", "reverse rape", "reverse arson" or "reverse jaywalking". It's nonsensical. There is only murder, theft, rape, arson and jaywalking. In the same way there is only racism and sexism. There is no "reverse" anything, because that's completely nonsensical.

A woman can be as much of a sexist as a man. A black person can be as much of a racist as a white person. (And, in fact, many social justice warriors are overtly and obnoxiously sexist and racist, but that's another topic.)

What feminists mean that "there is no such thing as reverse sexism or reverse racism" is that a woman, somehow, cannot be sexist towards a man, and a black person can't be racist against a white person. Because reasons.

It's a perfect excuse. A cop-out. It gives them carte blanche to be as sexist and racist as they want, without the moral and ethical dilemmas that would ensue. It gives them justification to be as sexist and racist they want without having to feel bad about it, or having to answer for it. All they have to do is claim "I'm not a sexist because I can't be a sexist." Which, of course, pretty much allows them to do whatever they want, without the moral repercussions.

I'm sorry, but if you are a sexist and a racist, you are a sexist and a racist no matter how many rationalizations you come up with, no matter how much you would want to rewrite the dictionary to rule yourself out. Playing with terminology and coming up with excuses does not free you from responsibility.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Quantum Break on Windows Store only?

When Rise of the Tomb Raider appeared on the Windows Store, people noticed several limitations imposed on the game (whether by design or by accident, nobody probably knows). Among the worst ones:
  • The game forces vsync. The major problem with this is that, seemingly, this doesn't allow the game to use g-sync in capable monitors (because it requires for vsync to be turned off in the game). In other words, the g-sync capability of your monitor (if it has it) becomes useless.
  • No fullscreen mode, only borderless window mode. (With some graphics cards this has an impact on performance.)
  • No overlays possible. This means no Steam overlay, no MSI Afterburner overlay, no GeForce Experience overlay, no ShadowPlay. It also means no Steam Controller configuration is possible.
  • There is no executable file on disk for the game. This means that anything that watches for such an executable being launched can't be used. This includes things like custom mouse settings (such as Logitech Gaming Software), the Nvidia control panel (which can normally be used to tweak graphical settings outside of games, on a game-by-game basis), and no custom Steam Controller setup.
  • No SLI nor CrossFire support.
  • Windows10 only. It's not possible to purchase the game on older versions of Windows.
Fortunately the game is also available on Steam, and that version has none of those problems.

Quantum Break by Remedy Entertainment is a long-awaited game with a great amount of hype. Microsoft has announced that it will be available for the PC only via the Windows Store. That's right; no Steam version, or any other version. Windows Store only.

While it has still not been confirmed, many fear that most, and probably all, of the above limitations will apply to it as well, because it will use the same technology.

For this reason there is a large amount of negative hype surrounding the game, even before launch. Not because the game is bad, but because of all the above. Many people are driven off the idea of buying the game, since it will be so crippled. And people not using Windows10 will not be able to purchase the game even if they wanted to.

I wouldn't be surprised if this decision will hurt the sales of the game. And as far as I know, this was a decision done solely by Microsoft, not by Remedy. In other words, Microsoft is possibly screwing Remedy on this whole thing, and hurting sales of the game.

Feminists root for female representation only in the most prestigious jobs

One of the main grievances of progressive feminists is that there's too little female representation in all kinds of positions and jobs.

However, have you noticed that they only mention prestigious and easy jobs? Politics, upper management and CEO's, university faculty, science researchers and so on and so forth.

How many times have you seen a feminist root for more female representation in other male-dominated fields, like coal mines, sewage maintenance, garbage disposal, farming, construction, and so on?

It seems to me that they are only concerned about female representation when the positions are prestigious, well-paying, clean and easy.

Why is that? Food for thought.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Deceptive 5 stars rating systems

I noticed something funny, and illuminating, when browsing the Apple App Store. One game had this kind of rating:


In other words, 2.5 stars (which is even stated as text as well). This would indicate that the ratings are split pretty evenly. 50% approval rate.

However, the game had four 1-star ratings and two 5-star ratings. 1 star is the minimum rating, and 5 stars is the maximum.

Wait... That doesn't make any sense. That's not an even split. There are significantly more 1-star ratings than 5-star ratings (in fact, double the amount). That's not even close to an even split. Four people rated it at 1 star, and only two at 5 stars.

Is the calculation correct? Well, the weighted average is (4*1+2*5)/(4+2) = 2.333 ≈ 2.5 (we can allow rounding to the nearest half star.)

So the calculation is correct (allowing a small amount of rounding). It is indeed 2.5 stars. The graphic is correct.

But it still doesn't make any sense. How can 4x1 star + 2x5 stars give an even split? That's not possible. There are way more 1-star ratings than 5-star ratings. It can't be an even split! What's going on here?

The problem is that the graphic is misleading. The minimum vote is 1 star, not 0 stars. (If there were a possibility of 0-star ratings, then the graphic would actually be correct.)

The graphic becomes more intuitive if we remove the leftmost star:



Now it looks more intuitive. Now it looks like it better corresponds to the 4x1 - 2x5 split. In other words, a bit less than 50% rating.

Or to state it in another way: The problem is that the leftmost star is always "lit", regardless of what the actual ratings are, which gives a misleading and confusing impression.

In reality the rating system should be thought of as being in the 0-4 range (rather than 1-5), with only four stars, and the possibility of none of them being "lit". Then it becomes more intuitive and gives a better picture of how the ratings are split.

As it is, with a range of 1-5, with the leftmost star always "lit", it gives the false impression of the ratings being higher than they really are. I don't know if they do this deliberately, or if they just haven't thought of this.

Progressive journalists and the word "gamergate"

To the "progressive" social justice warriors, especially video game journalists, the word "gamergate" has become pretty much the equivalent of "nazism", or pretty much like "communism" to the ultra-conservative Americans. That latter comparison seems to be even more apt, given how ridiculous the fear of communism was in the United States especially in the 50's and 60's. People often would use the word to attack their opponents and people they didn't like, accusing them of being communists.

It seems that "gamergate" has become this for progressive social justice warrior journalists. Whenever members of the gaming community express an opinion that the journalist disagrees with, the journalist can simply add the word "gamergate" to their refutation to immediately belittle and dismiss said opinion, and get an enormous echo chamber of other social justice warriors to support them. It's like a magic word; just add it to your article disagreeing with those gamers, and you automatically get support, and have completely destroyed their arguments. A bit like the word "communism" in the United States in the 60's.

As an example, consider this article: GamerGaters Are Mad About Localization Because They Don’t Understand It

What's the story? Some fans of the Fire Emblem game series are upset about the sometimes radical changes that have been made by the translation of the game Fire Emblem Fates, where many parts of the dialogue has been quite radically changed (with some parts even having been completely cut out), and the game even censored to some extent (with some mini-games removed). The argument is that this goes beyond simple localization.

Absolutely nothing of this is related in any way to gamergate. Not to what it actually is (ie. a consumer revolt against corruption in gaming journalism), nor even to what SJW's think it is (ie. some kind of conspiracy to attack women in gaming). It doesn't even matter what your stance about gamergate is; this protest has absolutely nothing to do with either interpretation of the movement. It's simply some fans of the game series being upset about botchy localization and even censorship of a particular game.

But a journalist disagreeing with them just has to add the word "gamergate" to his article, and even start the article with a full-on tirade against gamergate, and now magically he gets tons of support.

Just read the comment section. There are hundreds and hundreds of comments; maybe even over a thousand. And almost every single one of them supports the writer. It's an amazing echo chamber. From those several hundreds of comments I have found only two that disagreed with the article (on either point; ie. what gamergate actually is, or whether they went too far with the localization of the game). One could even say that it's a group wank.

And that just because the word "gamergate" was used. If the writer had been honest and simply approached the subject in a more neutral and fair manner, I'm sure that there would be maybe ten comments to the article. And those ten comments would probably be actually discussing the subject, rather than group-wanking on gamergate hatred.

"Gamergate" is the magic word for progressive journalists to garner the attention that they seek, it seems. Social justice warriors just love it, and will shove it everywhere they can.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How far will the "wage gap" myth go?

The "wage gap" myth is getting more and more widespread year after year, thanks to the heavy promotion by big-name feminists and the sensationalistic media. Government official (including up to heads of state), big corporations, small corporations, banks, the media at large, and millions and millions of people are in increasing numbers swallowing this myth. Some of them go so far as to actually "do something about it", which ironically usually means breaking the law of the country by gender-based favoritism and discrimination (such as giving extra money to female employees for the sole reason that they are women and nothing else, even if that's outright illegal in the country.)

Yet, even though the myth is getting more and more widespread, I have yet to see a single piece of actual, concrete evidence of this. I don't mean general statistics. I mean actual concrete examples: Pointing out an actual company that actually pays female employees less than men per work hour, for the exact same job. With actual evidence, such as job contracts and salary receipts.

If the mythical "77 cents per men's dollar" figure is true, then this shouldn't be hard. We know for a fact that there are plenty of companies that do pay the same hourly salary to all employees doing the same job. That means that, if the claim is true, there have to be companies out there that pay even less than 77 cents per dollar to female employees (so that the total average will be that 77 cents). Thus it shouldn't be hard to point out concrete examples of this. Name actual companies. Show the salary receipts. It shouldn't be hard to do this for hundreds and even thousands of companies (because they must exist if that figure is true).

I have yet to see this being done even for one single company, much less the thousands and thousands of them that must be part of this.

My guess is that they aren't showing actual evidence of individual companies because there isn't any. If they tried, they would find out that either the company is not actually paying less, that the jobs or working hours are not actually the same, or that the difference, if there is any, is not even nearly that drastic (and may be caused by things like seniority or salary negotiations).

The reality of the thing is that, even though it may be so that the totality of the female labor force may be earning less per year than the totality of the male labor force, this is because they are not on average doing the same jobs for the same amount of time. What feminists are doing is taking total earnings, dividing them among the number of workers, and then coming up with a lower number for women than men, and then sensationalistically concluding that women are being paid less, when the reality is that women are earning less, which is a completely different thing. (In fact, I have actually seen the claim being made by using the word "earn" rather than the word "paid". It always gets me suspicious that the person making the claim is trying for some plausible deniability if they are ever called out. "I didn't say they were paid less; I just said the earn less." Of course they will never make the distinction clear, and will deliberately abuse the confusion between the two terms, falsely giving the impression that women are paid less, when in reality they are just earning less, which is not the same thing.)

The "wage gap" myth is probably never going to go away. The totality of working women earn less than the totality of working men because of personal life choices. On average women choose to get less-paying careers than men, or do less hours than men. And this will probably always be so. But since this will cause the total earnings for women to be less, the myth will always persist.

But I'm wondering that given that the myth is being more and more widespread, where it will end. What will be the extreme that it will cause.

One thing that I find very likely is that some companies will, either voluntarily or even by force, start to pay their female employees more than their male ones, for the simple reason that they are women. And even though this is actually illegal in most countries. We will see whether the law will be enforced on this or not. In some cases the law might actually be ignored. Because, you know, it's the current year and all that. And all protests that this is illegal will be shouted down by accusations of sexism and misogyny.

If that happens, the next question in my mind is what will happen if those women then start working less, because they have bigger salaries. I mean on average. If they start working less, their total earnings will again start plummeting. What then? Will companies be forced to raise women's salaries once again to compensate? How far can this go? Can this possibly go so far that companies will be forced to pay women salary even if those women do not work at all?

I know that sounds really far-fetched, but the way things are going, and seeing examples of even crazier things all over the world, I don't actually consider that out of the realm of possibility.

The only thing that can stop that madness is how willing the government of each country will be ready to enforce their own equality laws. (But, of course, if they do that, the "wage gap" myth will once again persist, so it will be an endless vicious circle.)

Friday, March 11, 2016

American conservatives and anti-environmentalism

The American bipartite system is a bit strange. Ie. the "liberals" and the "conservatives." (To my knowledge there are actually other political parties as well, but for some reason I can't really understand, there are effectively just two parties in the United States.) The "liberals" (ie. "the left") seem to hold mostly just your average normal western-world values and political views about human rights, freedoms and the role of the government towards their citizens. The "conservatives" (ie. "the right"), however, seem to be populated with the most extreme archetypal American capitalist and corporatist thinking.

The conservatives are not exclusively full of gun-toting regressive rednecks, however. There are some really, really smart and intelligent people, who nevertheless hold deeply conservative values (and pretty much abhor anything that has something to do with liberalism and socialism.)

For example, there are some conservative YouTubers who are really smart and intelligent, and have tons of really good skeptical opinions about politics and social movements, opinions that are really well researched and argued, and that are very easy to agree with. Yet, at the same time, they spout all kind of archetypal extreme-right nonsense, like how liberalism and socialism is a mental disease. Or how climate change is just a hoax.

And it's especially that last part that really baffles me. You see, there's an extremely common anti-environmental sentiment among a good portion (if not even the vast majority) of American conservatives. They might say they care about the environment, but their words and actions say otherwise, and in fact they seem to vehemently oppose any kind of environmental acts and laws which would eg. reduce pollution. And of course the climate change conspiracy theory is absolutely rampant among them. They seem to think that, in the same way as they think that stricter gun control laws would mean that SWAT teams would raid their homes and forcefully confiscate all their guns, stricter environmental laws would confiscate their cars, close up factories, or something like that. It's not really clear to me why exactly they oppose environmentalism.

It's also a bit baffling where this general sentiment is coming from. However, I have a hypothesis for a possible source of it (although it might be a bit far-fetched):

American conservatives hate communism and socialism (most of them can't even tell the difference between the two, and think of them as synonyms.) To them they are pretty much like nazism, and totalitarian oppressive regimes. Many of them seem to believe that a socialist country would be like North Korea mixed with nazism, stalinism and maoism. Or something.

They also absolutely hate hippies. That's because hippies are archetypically extreme liberals, and socialists, and are all about peace and love and tolerance, and everything being shared among everybody else. Hippies archetypically abhor and oppose the military, guns, violence, and differences in socioeconomical status. And hippies are also archetypically extreme environmentalists (to the point of being "tree huggers").

And my hypothesis is that conservatives abhor environmentalism for that reason. They associate environmentalism with socialism, probably via the hippie culture (which they also abhor).

This is actually a fallacy of the undistributed middle, or guilt by association: All hippies are socialist. All hippies are environmentalists. Therefore environmentalism is an integral part of socialism. And because socialism is bad, therefore environmentalism is bad.

Most conservatives will probably deny this connection, but I suspect that this is the origin (or at least a significant contributor).

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Anita Sarkeesian is scamming people again

In January 24 I wrote about how Anita Sarkeesian announced she was ending the "Tropes vs. Women" video series because of "depression". I predicted that she would make a comeback when she was going to run out of money, and ask for more money.

Well, it took a lot less time than I expected. She is now, only a bit over a month later, asking for another 200 thousand dollars for yet another bullshit project. It seems that she got over her "depression" quite quickly.

"But hey", you might ask, "why are you saying she's scamming people?"

Well, consider that she initially asked for 6 thousand dollars for her original "Tropes vs Women" project. She got a lot more money than that. According to her tax report from 2014, she got a total revenue of 411929 dollars.

Her "non-profit" (which means "tax exempt") organization does nothing more than YouTube videos. Can you guess how many videos she made in 2014 using those 400+ thousand dollars? Take a guess.

Three.

And no, these are not some grand-scale productions requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars. These are low-production videos that require nothing more than a camera and some editing software, which people all over YouTube do with no budget at all. (Even if you count all the possible one-time expenses required to make such videos, including recording equipment, a computer, and editing software, we are talking about a few thousands dollars.)

To this day she has done about half of the videos she promised for six thousand dollars.

"But she has to live!"

She has to live by making three videos a year. And billing 20000 dollars for a single speech. Yeah, right. I wish I could bill 20 thousand dollars for a speech, and make three videos a year for hundreds of thousands of dollars. That's more money for a single speech than many people make in a year doing actual work.

Anita Sarkeesian is nothing but a scam artist. She plays the victim and gets hundreds of thousands of dollars every year of pity money, and egregiously high speech fees, doing basically nothing. Doing things that most people do with no budget at all. YouTube is full of videos made by amateurs that have significantly higher production quality, and those people did not need to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to make them. And they are making them at a very regular basis, sometimes even once a week, all year. That's over 50 videos a year, of much higher quality than Anita's.

And the sad thing is that her scam works. As of writing this, she has already raised over 10 thousand dollars for this new bullshit project. And I'm sure that number is only going to go up in the next days. All the while her "non-profit" company has something like a half million dollars in assets, at least.

She is scamming people out of their money, and nothing can stop her.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Ghostbusters: Why pandering to SJW's doesn't work

The new Ghostbusters movie has an all-female main cast (compared to the all-male main cast of the original two movies). That in itself isn't good or bad. However, there are many indications that the film makers are trying to pander to feminists and social justice warriors with this "girl power" casting. (Just make a google image search for "ghostbusters girl power" for one example of this.)

Is it working? Are feminists and social justice warriors happy?

Of course not. They are never happy. They cannot be happy. They are incapable of being happy. They are always angry. Nothing is ever good enough to them.

Of course they are whining and complaining about how the movie is "racist" and whatnot.

What exactly did you expect?

Capitulating to social justice warriors is useless. By trying to pander to them, you are only drawing their attention, and begging for their ire. It will bite you in the ass.

Stop capitulating to them. Stop pandering to them. It doesn't work. They will never be happy, and they will only attack you.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Gastric bypass surgery

In the United States morbid obesity is a real epidemic, with something like 33% of the entire population being obese. (As a side note, there is a difference between "overweight" and "obese". The latter is defined as the person's weight surpassing a certain limit and becoming significantly unhealthy and significantly increasing the risk of all kinds of diseases. And we are talking about 33% of the population being obese, not just overweight.)

In recent decades a medical procedure named gastric bypass surgery has become popular there, often recommended by doctors to combat obesity and lose weight. In fact, there is evidence that many doctors prescribe it even too liberally, and without telling their patients of all the risks and consequences. (And, of course, their websites are full of carefully-selected success stories and testimonials.)

The thing is, the procedure is both dangerous and may not remove all the existing diseases and risks. In fact, in some cases it might be the opposite.

Firstly, according to studies there is an approximately 0.5% mortality rate within the first month after surgery. That's 1 in 200 patients. That's not, in my opinion, an insignificant number. From 1000 patients, on average five of them will be dead within one month of the surgery.

Many doctors will argue that the risk is lower than the health risks associated with obesity (which are indeed great; a morbidly obese person could have, for example, a 30% of risk of a heart attack or stroke within their next 5 years of life.) However, by making this kind of argument they are implying that the surgery is the only solution; that it's impossible to lose the weight otherwise. This is absolutely bollocks.

It's not easy, for certain, but even morbidly obese people can become ideal weight with healthy dieting and exercise alone, without the need for any kind of surgeries or anything else. Yes, even a 200+ kg (440+ lb) person can reach their ideal weight (eg. 80 kg / 176 lb) with healthy food and exercising alone. Basically any person, no matter how sick or how much in bad shape they may be. There are plenty of such examples.

And the thing is, if it's done with healthy food and exercising, not only will all the obesity-related risks be reduced significantly, their health will be much improved even compared to other people of that ideal weight who nevertheless eat unhealthily and don't exercise.

And that was just about the mortality rate. That's not the only, nor even the major problem.

Secondly, gastric bypass surgery is not a magical panacea that will simply allow you to eat whatever you want, get full quicker and thus start losing weight. Many of these doctors don't really like to talk about the requirements and side-effects related to the operation.

The amount of risks and possible side-effects of the surgery are plentiful. However, even in the best case scenario, ie. even if everything goes absolutely perfectly and there are no complications whatsoever, the patient still needs to follow a super-strict diet for months, maybe even years. (The strict diet is required to avoid all kinds of deficiencies and risks related to eating too little of the wrong stuff, and not getting all the necessary nutrients.)

That's right: The patient needs to follow an extremely strict diet for months, perhaps even years, after the surgery.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Hint: What exactly is needed, in addition to exercise, to lose weight in the normal, healthy way?

That's right. Losing weight in the healthy way could be done by doing the exact same thing, but without the dangerous surgery with all of its risks and side-effects. The only thing that the person needs is the motivation to do so.

This also reveals one of the major problems with the surgery: Patients may follow the strict diet out of necessity, but very often they do not exercise nor otherwise live a healthy life. Their fitness level may not increase at all. In fact, one of the common side-effects is the fitness level of the patient actually decreasing, due to nutrient deficiencies and lack of exercise. Essentially, the patient loses muscle and bone tissue alongside the fat, because these go alongside it if the person does not eat enough nor exercises to keep them fit.

And that was assuming that the operation goes perfectly and none of the risks associated with it realize themselves.

And the thing is, most people who have had this surgery never actually become ideal weight. Many of them in fact remain obese. They may lose some weight, but not enough to become "only" overweight, much less normal weight. And in most cases their life quality will not improve much because they will be in extremely poor shape, and still obese. And in many cases many of the obesity-related diseases (such as diabetes) may not be cured at all. What's worse, since these people seldom exercise and keep themselves in good muscular shape, they will lose muscle tissue alongside fat, which may cause, ironically, for their fat percentage to remain about the same, or even increase (with all the subsequent health problems). Also, in many patients the distribution of fat gets all weird. (In some cases it's actually possible to distinguish a gastric surgery patient because of their odd body shape.)

As far as I understand, there are actually doctors in the United States who do not know that a morbidly obese person can physically lose all of their extra weight and become ideal weight, just with exercise and eating healthy. They might not even recommend it as the best possible option. They might examine a 250-kg person and conclude that it's a lost case; it's impossible for that person to lose all that weight on their own, and that surgery is the only option.

Yet that's just not true. Most people can lose the weight, and do it in a healthy manner, becoming even fitter than the average person of that ideal weight in the process. I'm not saying it's easy. Of course it's not easy. But it's possible. And it's a much better, safer and healthier option than a surgery.

Bad ideas can only survive with censorship

Forcing ideologies onto people by censoring criticism and differing points of view has been a staple of totalitarian regimes during the entire history or humanity. It's no different today. The only difference is that today we have the internet, which allows the dissemination of ideas worldwide a million times faster than before. It also allows criticism of those ideas by anybody in the world, pretty much immediately when the idea is presented.

How to distinguish good ideas from bad ones? There's at least one criterion that can be used to see if an idea is a bad one: If it needs censorship to survive. If its adherents promote silencing, censoring and banning of criticism and dissenting ideas.

Good ideas welcome criticism and scrutiny. They thrive on challenges. If they can endure the test of criticism, they become stronger and more reliable.

If your idea cannot survive criticism, and requires shutting down all such criticism, then your idea is bad. It doesn't matter what it is, it's a bad idea, and should be discarded. Good ideas do not abhor criticism, but the exact opposite.

(Note that this does not mean that an idea welcoming criticism automatically makes it a good one. This just means that an idea that abhors criticism is most certainly a bad one. Welcoming and thriving on criticism is a necessary but not sufficient requirement for good ideas.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Obsession with hair

There's a strange obsession that humans have with hair. Most people spend amazing amounts of time taking care of their hair and, in many cases, outright obsessing about how it looks. Hair care is a billion-dollar industry. Barbers, hair salons, and hair products are all over the place, everywhere.

There's also many cultural stigmas related to hair in many cultures, to some extent even in our modern western one. The most archetypal one is that many women feel shame if their hair is cut short, or they lose it. There are also many traditional views on hair still persisting in our modern culture (although diminishing), such as that women should have long hair and men short hair.

I myself am a highly pragmatic person. Function always comes first, aesthetics second. When I'm buying clothes or shoes, the most important aspect in my purchase decisions are comfort and functionality, aesthetics being only very secondary.

The same goes for my hair: What is the most functional hair style? Shaving it all off. It's extremely easy to clean, it's extremely easy to dry (both because there's almost nothing to clean or dry), it doesn't require any care, and it doesn't get in the way of anything. A super-short shave is by far the most pragmatic and utilitarian haircut. I couldn't care less what it looks like.

It's also very useful economically, because I can easily cut it at home for free. I haven't spent a single cent in haircuts for almost 15 years. (The last time I spent any money on anything related to cutting my hair was the hair trimmer I bought back then. It's still working fine.)

But not so with the vast majority of people. They really obsess about their hair, and most of them wouldn't cut it off even if they were paid to do so.

Personally I also find shorter hair more aesthetic than long hair, both on men and women.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The genius of Pokémon games

Not something that grinds my gears, just some random thoughts.

The Pokémon games celebrate their 20-year anniversary this year. There are currently six "generations" of these games; each generation consists one or two complementary pairs of games (each pair is essentially the same game, but with some catchable pokémon being different, and some details in the storyline changed), and a third individual game in some cases. If we count each complementary pair of games as essentially the same game, there are 16 distinct games in total (27 if we count all games individually). This is, of course, only counting the core games, not the side games nor spinoffs (which usually are of a completely different genre and use completely different game mechanics.)

Curiously, each of the core games uses essentially the exact same basic game mechanic. From the very first games of generation 1 to the latest games of generation 6.

Describing the common aspects of the game mechanics of all the games would be too long, but to pick up the most essentials, it's basically a turn-based JRPG with a party of at most 6 pokémon, each with at most 4 moves, them being able to learn new moves as they level up, or using special items. Pokémon belong to different "classes" with a rock-paper-scissors system of strengths and weaknesses against other such "classes". Wild pokémon can be defeated for exp, or caught and added to the player's roster. The core story consists of the protagonist starting with one starter pokémon and advancing from city to city, challenging gym leaders, and ultimately reaching the Pokémon League where they will fight the "Elite Four", as the ultimate challenge and "soft end" of the game (although in most of the games the gameplay will continue after that with additional side quests and goals, and often even expanded world and new catchable pokémon.) There are a myriad of other staples and stock features that appear in all of the games, but I won't make this paragraph any longer by listing them.

Every single core game in the series, all 27 of them (so far), use the that exact same core game mechanic, and follow that same core plot. All of them. Their graphics have advanced with the hardware (even making a quite successful jump to 3D), and each new generation has additional features to them (lots of new pokémon, new battle modes, new side quests, etc.) but essentially all follow the same pattern. One could pretty much say that if you have played one of them, you have played all of them.

Yet, somehow, against all logic, each game is as enjoyable to play as ever. Somehow they avoid a sense of endless repetition, even though that would describe them quite well. I have a hard time explaining why. That's the genius behind these games.

For example, when I bought my Nintendo DS, one of the very first games I bought for it was Pokémon White. A year or so later (and mostly inspired by Twitch Plays Pokémon) I bought Pokémon White 2. Being in the same "generation", it's a very, very similar game (much more similar than games in subsequent generations). The story is different, but other than that it's really similar. But I still found it really enjoyable and addictive, and I played it for even longer than the first one.

These games, from the very first ones, are really well designed. You could just pick up the very first games of the first generation, in all of their monochrome graphical quality, and enjoy it as much as the latest ones. All the essential game mechanics are there.

Not many game series succeed in this. People often laugh at game companies essentially releasing the same game year after year (usually sports games), and how people still keep buying them even though it doesn't make sense... but in this particular case, it does make sense, because each game is as enjoyable as ever.

One thing I like about the pokémon games is how relaxing it is to play them. They avoid frustration and stress (although this can go so far as to often make the games too easy). They can be played at a leisurely pace, without rush nor pressure. Somehow the game mechanic just works.