The Great Level Squish?

World of Warcraft studio Blizzard has apparently announced that WoW is going to reduce its level cap – a so-called ‘level squish’ – at some point in the future, and it has done so via a customer survey asking if you knew about that.

PC Games

Wow. An idea that I’ve been pushing for awhile now, and I didn’t even have to write them about doing it. I really don’t know why they ever increased character levels beyond 100 in the first place. It just doesn’t make any sense. I’m not even sure why leveling is still part of the game, at this point. It just serves as a gateway that players have to get through before being able to be free to do what they want in the game.

Blizzard has conducted a stat squish already. The player base got over that. They take away in-game flight routinely with every release of new content. The player base puts up with that. I can’t see why reducing levels to 100 from the current 120 makes any difference at all, or should make a difference to anyone playing the game. Max level is max level, no matter what number is attached to it. You can’t get more max than max.

I’ve been of the opinion that levels should be reduced and capped at 100 for quite some time now. If Blizzard insists on leveling-gating new content, they should just reset the level of existing maxxed toons to 99 and be done with it. As I outlined above, I don’t understand why this warrants a lot of wishy washy, hand wringing bullshit. Just do the thing and be done with it. The players will probably not even notice. I’m convinced they won’t notice much of anything unless you went back to making them walk everywhere in game. That suggestion seems to piss most players off the way I get pissed off about not being able to fly in game.

The Amazon/Ubik Conundrum

I was aghast to discover that I had missed a Philip K. Dick novel the other day. I had shared an image on Facebook that discussed the dangers of pissing off a redhead (or ginger. This image.) something I do every day with the Wife, especially when I point out that her temper proves she is a ginger. That woman can punch hard when she thinks she’s being insulted. However, I’ve seen the carpet a few times in our thirty years of marriage. She’s a ginger. The sun lightens the hair on her head, as it does for most strawberry blondes. But the long-running argument between Red and I wasn’t the subject I wanted to discuss here. Missing from the image was one of my favorite examples of redheads that you really don’t want to piss off, and that is the potentially causality destroying character from the movie Prince of Darkness.

You Are Receiving This Broadcast As A Dream | Prince of Darkness (1987)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve

…and she was pretty pissed at the end of that film. With good reason. So anyway, another friend and fan of the ginger set said that the clip reminded him of the novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Having never read the book I felt I had to remedy my lack of knowledge and went directly to Amazon.com to see if the book was available on Audible. Then I could read the book and find out what it was that he thought was similar between the book and the movie.

Ever since I started getting vertigo I’ve had a problem with the repetitive back and forth motion of the eyes while reading making me tired and dizzy and potentially bringing on vertigo, So I get books on audio now. I listen to so many books that it pays off to have an Audible account. Aside from having a regular supply of books to have read to me, if I feel like I want to access the text of the book I can get whispersync from Amazon to synchronize between the audiobook and the Kindle book, and that makes the experience a win-win for me no matter how I want to learn something new.

This was one of those instances where I was tempted to get both the Kindle book and the audiobook, especially since the page on Amazon offered me the Kindle book for $3.62 as shown in the header image for this article. Less than four bucks more and I could have the book to read for myself if I felt like reading it! So I bought the book and downloaded both versions to my phone. Then I noticed something odd. The Kindle book was not in English, it was in Romansh. I don’t even know what region of the world Romansh is spoken in, much less speak it myself.

Well, that’s weird. The Ubik page on Amazon’s website is written in English and it doesn’t say anything about the other versions of the book that are listed as being in other languages. Feel free to click the link under the image and see for yourself. There is no way to find the English Kindle book short of looking specifically for the book as a Kindle book and that book is not $3.62 it’s $9.99 (free with kindleunlimited! Another fucking subscription service. Just what I need.) more than twice the price of the Kindle book I was first offered. I know what this is, even though I’ve not seen it too many times before. This is false advertising, and I’ve been taken in by it.

So I started the refund on the Kindle book in a language I can’t read and opened a chat dialog with someone at Amazon so that I could resolve the problem of being sold something that I didn’t want. What I wanted was the book in English, the language the book was originally written in, and I wanted it at the advertised price on the Ubik page on Amazon. I mean, it takes less work to port over the exact type script of the original work than it does to pay someone to translate the book into another language, edit, copyedit, format, etc. the new manuscript into another language. Why was the Kindle book twice the price?

Well, I know why the Kindle book was twice the price, as does every person who deals with the frustration of getting any book in this day and age. Amazon and Apple and just about every other digital book publisher rigs the prices of books through contractual obligations at artificially high prices where they can get away with them, and then offers bargain prices where they cannot gouge the unsuspecting customer. And after an hour or so of arguing with the representative in the Amazon chat service, they conceded I had a legitimate complaint but that they were not contractually able to offer the digital books at the same prices that they offer them at in other countries and for other languages. However, I could get a credit for the difference in price between the two books, and that was the best that they could do for me. So I took the only route available to me and accepted the credit offer. Not that it really made me happy.


Today on Facebook I was offered a memory I may have missed from June 11th, 2018. Hey, it’s been a year and four days since the Amazon/Ubik conundrum. I’ve listened to/read the book now. More than once. I know why the dream sequence reminded my friend of that book. The one unresolved conundrum here is that the webpage for Ubik on Amazon still takes you to the Romansh Kindle version even when you type “Ubik” in a fresh instance on the Amazon store. Even though I returned that book and bought the English version for a final price of $3.62 when the store credit was applied. Even though I helpfully reiterated the potential legal liability that Amazon was opening itself up to by putting a price and no stated language waiver on the combined Ubik page that you land on when you type in Ubik on their home screen.

One whole year later, still not fixed. I saved the chat session logs. I saved the page images. It’s a simple thing to reassemble the entire conundrum, so I figured I’d do that. I mean, I’ve given them a year to fix their programming and they still haven’t done it. I wonder how many Kindle books there are out there that are offered at a lower price in a language other than English, versions that are offered on landing pages when you go looking for a book by its title? Books that are not the books that the shopper is looking for, even though they are tempted to buy the books for the lower price stated, later to have to go through the exact same process I have had to go through? There’s a class action lawsuit in there somewhere for the savvy lawyer to take advantage of. Just send my children the finders fee twenty years from now when the lawsuit settles, would you?

The Paradox of Tolerance

Someone on Reddit took the time to read the article I wrote titled GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free (weird, isn’t it? That someone would actually read links provided as feedback?) and offered some commentary feedback of their own,

you’re probably already aware of paradox of intolerance, which applies perfectly to your article.

What I learned from that feedback is that I need to read more Karl Popper. Once I went looking for the paradox and found it as well as Popper’s name, I was happy to be reintroduced to some of his thinking. For those who haven’t run across this concept before, the paradox is stated as follows,

…if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Having refreshed the idea in my head, I remembered running across the paradox of intolerance before, or heard someone expressing it before, back in the seventies. Sometime in the immediate aftermath of white supremacy first being separated from federal power. The idea that we had somehow encouraged this evil in our midst.

None of us thought of it in the terms of unlimited tolerance, back then. We just knew, causally, that neo-Nazis started to appear among us. The subsequent discussions were about how to respond to them. The ACLU, rightly or wrongly, defended the rights of the neo-Nazis and Klansmen to speak. Many other Americans condemned them for this action, but I don’t think we’ve ever successfully dealt with the problem. It simply keeps re-emerging every generation to be dealt with again. Perhaps that is the human curse, to always be weeding out the bad ideas.

It’s only in hindsight, with a view towards history, with increasing experience, that you can see the unlimited tolerance as the weakness that needs to be offset, because it is a weakness as Popper rightly observed. It is a weakness and also a strength. How to filter the garbage without filtering the learning that comes from being exposed to the garbage? That is the crux of the paradox. You can’t see authoritarianism as an ill to be avoided from inside the authoritarian bubble. You only see it from the outside once you emerge. From inside it seems like a just use of power, like an anti-abortionist might see stopping what they deem murder or anti-vaxxers stopping harm to children. Until you stop believing a thing and look at it from outside that thing, you can’t test it’s falsity. While you believe, state power looks like the answer to stopping the sickness that you see.

This is why critical thinking is an absolute good that needs to be taught to everyone. Without critical thinking you simply do not have the tools to determine whether your beliefs are false or not. As I said in the GIGO article,

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent. Due diligence is another way to describe critical thinking.

This is the difference between a belief and a philosophy. Between knowledge and belief. You can believe any damn fool thing you want, even demonstrably false things (doublethink) a philosophy (specifically scientific philosophy) requires that you test new beliefs against old beliefs to determine which is the sounder thing to believe in. Whether or not this new idea conforms to the other things you think you know already. When an old idea fails it should be rejected in favor of the new thing which at least appears to be more true.

Do You Believe in a Secular America?

Doublethink Is Stronger Than Orwell Imagined

“The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”

George Orwell, quoted in The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey
“Nineteen Eighty-Four – Official Trailer”1984 Novel on Amazon

1984 will always be an essential book, regardless of changes in ideologies, for its portrayal of one person struggling to hold on to what is real and valuable. “Sanity is not statistical,” Winston thinks one night as he slips off to sleep. Truth, it turns out, is the most fragile thing in the world. The central drama of politics is the one inside your skull.

George Packer, The Atlantic, July 2019

What Trump Can Teach Us About Constitutional Law

For any #MAGA out there. You know who you are.

Trumpconlaw is another podcast hosted by Roman Mars of 99% Invisible fame. When the show first started, I started tweeting out my own version of promos for each episode. The series of them can be found under the tag TrumpConLaw on this blog. This post should appear as the header for that series of tweets.

I am slowly working my way through the 99% Invisible archive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever make it all the way through, but hope springs eternal. 99% Invisible is undoubtedly one of the best designed websites in existence. All Roman Mars podcasts and the podcasts that are presented through his distribution group, Radiotopia, are among the few podcasts out there that are easily shareable; easily shareable because the link to the hosting website is actually referenced in the feed address for the podcast you are listening to. I remain baffled as to why more podcasts do not design their feeds to be easily accessible in this way. In any case, give some of these podcasts a listen. It will take your mind off of the impending doom looming over the US today.


TED2015 Roman Mars Why city flags may be the worst-designed thing you’ve never noticed

#32 Contempt Power

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

#31 Executive Privilege

Twitter

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

The US Economy in Two Headlines

Here’s a quote from the first story,

Wealthy households and individuals are pouring money into asset managers, betting on companies that lose $1 billion a year, bonds from little-known Middle Eastern republics, and giving hot Silicon Valley start-ups more venture capital than they can handle.

And private equity has seen so much cashflow that firms have $2 trillion of unused capital.

Axios, Dion Rabouin, Jun 6, 2019 – Too much money (and too few places to invest it)

Here’s a quote from the second one,

“Relatively small, unexpected expenses, such as a car repair or replacing a broken appliance, can be a hardship for many families without adequate savings,” the report said. “When faced with a hypothetical expense of $400, 61% of adults in 2018 say they would cover it, using cash, savings, or a credit card paid off at the next statement,” it added.

Bloomberg, Matthew Boesler, May 23, 2019 – Almost 40% of Americans Would Struggle to Cover a $400 Emergency

43% of Texans (and about that many Americans) are poor. Explain to me again how we cannot afford to deliver a dividend to those people, the half of America that is poor, that is struggling (if you must insist on soft language instead of harsh reality) we could make them have to struggle less, at the very least. Or is suffering what you really want your fellow humans to do?

From a Twitter reply.

Dark Money and the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy

…or “why the Federalist Society is not your great, great, great, great grandfathers federalist society.”

Facebook took the time to inform me today that the Federalist Society had added an event to their schedule. I was befuddled by this. Why should I care? Why is this in my notifications? Did I mistakenly like this right wing ideological factory? Why would I do that?

Well, the why in all those questions is quite easy to figure out. The Federalist papers and the Federalist party were a group of the founders of the United States who set about to promote the adoption of the constitution, most of whose writings came from Alexander Hamilton. When I ran across the page on Facebook I assumed that the group was organized to promote some form of return to the US’ constitutional roots, or at least to promote a move to update the language in the constitution to reflect the current structures that the government empowers so as to give them constitutional legitimacy (things like Social Security, Medicare, and money not based on a commodity like gold and silver) but what I have discovered since liking the page on Facebook is that the Federalist Society is just another Koch funded venture. Just another attempt to promote their desire to keep their ill-gotten gains cloaked in conservative ideology.

VOX: The incredible influence of the Federalist Society, explained

Within just a few years, the group was embraced and funded by a number of powerful, wealthy conservative organizations, which eventually included foundations associated with John Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Richard Scaife, and the Koch brothers. “The funders all got the idea right away—that you can win elections, you can have mass mobilizations, but unless you can change élites and the institutions that are by and large controlled by the élites, like the courts, there are limits to what you can do,” Amanda Hollis-Brusky, a professor of politics at Pomona College and the author of “Ideas with Consequences,” a study of the Federalist Society, said. “The idea was to train, credential, and socialize a generation of alternative élites.”

The New Yorker

The Federalist Society is one of the more the well-respected public faces of this dark conservative web of money within American society. This mechanism created specifically to throw off the yoke of income tax and to secure the wealth of the wealthy for the wealthy and their children exclusively. When I was a member of the Libertarian Party, no one talked about the Koch brothers influence on the party, on the nature of libertarian thought itself, and yet David Koch was one of the early (vice) presidential candidates and spent large sums of his own money to promote the ticket and the party. They co-created the CATO institute, frequently referenced in the early years of this blog, the leading libertarian think tank in Washington DC. Their views on money and finance permeate all of libertarian thought, which is why American libertarians deny the existence of libertarian socialism.

This desire to codify their wealth as theirs beyond question predates the Koch brothers even though they are the current target of choice for most liberals. Jane Mayer has been doing the generic book tour promoting her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. She’s been in high demand since the 2016 election upset that yielded the Orange Hate-Monkey. Here she is talking about what she learned while writing the book on last week’s episode of On the Media,

On the Media – Dark Money and the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy – May 31, 2019

By about 1971, some of the leaders of the biggest businesses in America became alarmed. They watched the anti-Vietnam War movement taking on the companies that were involved in the defense industry, the consumer movement of Ralph Nader and the environmental movement that was beginning to call for all kinds of regulations on pollution. And you get this kind of call to arms by Lewis Powell, who was then a lawyer from Richmond; he wasn’t yet on the Supreme Court. He wrote a paper for the Chamber of Commerce and he said, ‘big business, if you don’t get organized, we’re going to lose our way of life. The enemy is not the kids who are on the streets protesting, it’s not hippies or yippies. The enemy is elite public opinion. And if we want to fight back, we have to change the way the elite public opinion is formed in this country, all of the instruments that form public opinion, meaning the media, the pulpits, academia, science, the courts and public policy. So the creation of right-wing think tanks, starting in the late 1970s, was an answer to Lewis Powell’s call to arms. The people who set up the Heritage Foundation were literally talking about this Lewis Powell memo and saying, ‘we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to spend money, we’ve got to fight back.’ Joseph Coors, who was heir to a brewing company in Colorado, sent a letter to his senator, Gordon Allott and said, ‘I’ve got money, how do I spend it?’ And an aide who was working for Allott saw this letter, and his name was Paul Weyrich, and he was one of the two founders of the Heritage Foundation and he said, ‘I’ve got an idea. We’re going to set up this think tank.’

Jane Mayor interviewed by Bob Garfield

The Heritage Society and the Federalist Society are no different from each other once you scratch the surface. Denying science when it suits their purposes, catering to the wealthy with their laughable ideas about supply side or trickle-down economics, undermining the ideals of civic duty and public good with their willingness to take large amounts of cash directly from the wealthy. They are worse than the John Birch society was. At least the Birchers believed the bullshit they peddled. These guys peddle whatever the wealthy pay them to say. They no more believe what they say than the Orange Hate Monkey might believe what he said yesterday or even an hour ago. They’ll believe it so long as they are being paid to believe it. They are preaching conservative ideology every bit as reprehensible as anything the John Birchers ever stood for, and they do it openly as just another thing they want to do to America now that they have control of it since that is what their funders want of them.

CBC News: The NationalThe Koch Brothers’ “Dark Money” | Jane Mayer – Feb 26, 2016

One hundred and fifty-six members of the current congress signed a pledge that was created by one of the Koch’s groups saying they will do absolutely nothing about global warming that costs a single cent.

Every time a conservative/libertarian calls calls you a collectivist, they are merely repeating a talking point of David Koch. They are all David Koch clones that are incapable of independent thought. If they could have independent thoughts they might actually question what is so bad about doing things as a group, since nothing much gets done these days without working as a team. They certainly aren’t opposed to owing fealty to a king or dictator, what they really mean by saying “collectivist”. If they were opposed to the centralization and assertion of power they wouldn’t be Stormtrumpers now, would they?

So the long and the short of this is that I unliked the Federalist Society page on Facebook. I really don’t have room in my headspace to sort out all of the various sources of bullshit I’m exposed to these days, especially with the conservative/libertarian love child currently sitting in the White House. The pruning of my libertarian delusions continues at its same, slow pace.

Daily Beef: Trash is Trash No Matter Who Throws it Away

Don’t be Stupid.

That’s what she said, when I tried to throw the food away. It was part of a wrong order we’d driven home with. We’d separated the parts out that we were going to take back to get remade. The bag was all set up, ready to go back, and then she puts the fries back into the bag. I said “keep those fries, they’re just going to throw them away.” She says “that’s too many fries. I can’t eat that many fries.” So I turned to the trashcan to throw them away myself. That’s when she said it. Don’t be stupid.

Any restaurant you return food to throws that food away. They aren’t allowed to do anything else with that food other than throw it away. So throwing it away yourself if you don’t need it as proof of an order filled incorrectly is perfectly acceptable, especially if you don’t want to be tempted to eat two giant boxes of french fries. You should just throw them away. What else are you going to do?

What if they want the whole order back?

Really? The whole order? Well then, I guess I’ll have to go back for those fries I threw away. Here, I can get you that handful I ate right now, just give me a second. The whole order, sheesh. Don’t be stupid.

When I got angry at being told I was being stupid, she accuses me of wanting her to eat all the fries. I don’t recall saying anything beyond “just keep the fries”. I said just keep ’em because they will throw them away anyway. Then she told me to shut up. Don’t ever tell me to shut up. Don’t tell any writer to be silent or you will probably regret it. That simply isn’t in the cards for you, having that order followed. Writers do not shut up. We will get even, eventually.

This is a common refrain in the household. “You love to throw things away.” I do not love to throw things away. I simply will throw things away, even perfectly good items that someone might have a use for somewhere on the planet. There is so much cheap plastic shit around me on any given day, I’m sure someone could have a use for some of this plastic somewhere. But I don’t know who they are, and in the meantime I need the counter space for something else. I need the counter, and there isn’t any place else to store cheap plastic stuff that we can’t use anywhere else in the house. There was, but all those places are full now.

So I throw that shit in the recycler, if I can. If it can’t be recycled, even if I think it should be recyclable, I throw that stuff away. I throw it away because someone has to throw it away and I don’t see why that someone can’t be me. If being willing to be that someone makes me into some kinda discard-a-philic ne’er do well, I can live with that.

What I can’t live with is being told to shut up when my reasoning is totally sound. Discard that food you don’t want to eat because it will make you fat unless there is a starving person sitting right next to you or somewhere you can easily get to right now. You do not (repeat, DO NOT) have to leave that food in the refrigerator until it grows green mold on it . You can just throw that shit away right now. It will get moldy somewhere else eventually.

Ketchup packets. Tartar sauce packets. Soy sauce packets. Sweet sauce packets. Throw them all away unless you are planning a weekend barbecue and want condiments for that shindig. In any case, you can throw those hot mustard packets out right the fuck now. No human will consume those. That is how you can tell if the person across from you is secretly a lizard wearing human skin. If they eat any mustard other than French’s yellow mustard, they are an alien. Set phasers to liquify and fire when ready.

Barrels of old fortune cookies. Crates of wrapped plastic tableware. Containers of flour that were milled in 1850, from the looks of ’em. Unopened boxes of cereal that you’ve saved since you were a child. Dressers full of clothes that you will never wear. Rooms full of furniture that you can’t bear to part with. This is why the roadsides across America are a never ending series of self-storage units interspersed with supermarkets and strip malls. You have to have a place to store all the shit you won’t throw away, and you have to have places to buy the stuff you need to replace the shit you put in storage. Then you’ll need more self-storage, and the cycle repeats until you are crushed under the piles of magazines that you might need to look something up in one day and so don’t haul off to one of the dozens of storage units that you rent.

Now you are dead, and something has to be done with all your shit. So your relatives, if they aren’t stupid, will call an estate sales agent. Your relatives don’t want to go through your shit any more than you did, and they’ll just find more stuff that they can’t bear to let go. Their storage rooms are already full of their stuff. So the estate sales agent will go through your shit and throw away what can’t be sold and sell the rest. I suggest you shortcut the process. Call an estate sales agent yourself before you are crushed. When they ask who died say,

“No one died. I just want you to take all this shit in my house and get rid of it. Also? Don’t tell me where it goes or whether you had to throw any of it away.”

Then you can just go out and buy new stuff. Problem solved.

I’ve ranted on this before. I’m surprised it was only once before.