log (2005/07/22 to 2005/07/28)

A possible reason to be worried about Roberts:

Here's the real crux of the matter that Bush wants a proven loyalist in place for: His last notable decision was made last week, when his appeals court overturned a lower court decision that the special military tribunals for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo detention camp in Cuba are illegal.

However a new appeal is set to go to the Supreme Court.

No idea how real that worry is; I have to admit I haven't been following the issue all that hard. My almost completely intuitive feeling is still that this is the best we could have hoped for from Bush.

From abuddhas, a fun (and notably titled) anti-Extropian essay, The Age of Batshit Crazy Machines. Some of what the author says is the kind of stuff that I tend to dismiss:

"In many ways we are worse off than ever. In ancient Greece, even slaves had a deep social role as part of a household, unlike even higher class modern workers, who are valued as things, interchangeable parts in engines of profit."

Better to be a slave in ancient Greece than an information worker today, because of the "deep social role as part of a household"? I really doubt the slaves would agree. Given the choice I know which one I'd choose.

On the other hand he's not entirely primitivist by any means:

"Best case, not likely: Time-contracted virtual reality transforms human consciousness in a good way and we regrow the biosphere better than it ever was, with wild machine life integrated with wild biology instead of replacing it, adding flexibility, and we humans can live in that world and in endless simulated sub-worlds."

Yeah, that's it! He's pessimistic that we can actually get there, but at least he thinks it'd be good.

Also from abuddhas, some anarchy:

"If only a few people ignore the government, it won't go away; instead it will come down on those few people like a ton of CS gas. But if the number of people ignoring the government, treating its commands as one would treat the commands of some delusional street person, were to reach critical mass, the power of the state, resting essentially as it does on the complaisance of the governed, would melt away like butter in the Arizona sun."

I'm unclear about how I get someone to, for instance, stop hitting me and taking my stuff if there's no government, but the anarchists have all sorts of potentially interesting answers to that worry.

Zillions of floors for The Sims 2!

And speaking of The Sims 2, here are the last big annoying photos for this week (because this is the last entry for this week, nyeh-heh-heh).

Georgia went out and got a new outfit:

Georgia in purple again

Much better than that pink dress. (Hm, that very strong vertical in the middle of the shot is pretty distracting, isn't it?)

Here's a rare picture of the whole family eating together (well, Hermes is sleeping in his crib):

Zooms (and Bendets)

Ransom is describing some really lovely jewelry that his gang recently lifted. Note the remains of Georgia's birthday cake in the background.

And here's Ransom camping it up with a delivery person ("Groceries for the Evil Criminal Mastermind!" "OH, thank you so MUCH, sweetie; we're all just FAMISHED!):

Groceries for Ransom

(Sorry, I just thought that was funny.) And Marisa left Hermes to the family (and the Nanny) and went to work, so we finally find out what a Hall of Famer wears to work. Turns out to be leather:

Hall of Famer Marisa

(Nice car-pool car there, also.)

And finally here's Georgia over at the Danvers', dancing with Jane.

Georgia and Jane

"You're such a cute little teenager," she says; and Jane says "I'm working on it, I'm working on it".

(Note the highly realistic pinball machine in the background.)

A reader writes:

Is the Librarium right before the railroad bridge as you head west into East Chatham? If so, I believe that that store has been there since the late '70s or early '80s because as a kid I went in there looking for a book. Used to bike into East Chatham to buy candy...

That's so cool! Yep, it's right before the railroad bridge (and the bridge was a one-lane bridge last weekend, because they were doing work on it). Nice to think they've been there selling old books out of that old house for at least twenty years. (The condition of the sign also supports the notion.) And that one of my very own readers went in there looking for a book as a kid.

(If this reader would like to write any more, I'd love to hear stories about what it was like to bike into East Chatham for candy and used books as a kid; sounds like fun. Similar or dissimilar stories from other readers are of course most welcome as well!)

The little daughter having been hooked by The Sims (2), the little boy (I wonder why I don't write "the little son") has now been turned onto Runescape by a friend. Intersting stuff: a Java-applet based massively multiplayer online role-playing game (of the "spend your first five levels battling cows and chickens and learning to cook" variety), that has thousands of players, servers like all over the world, and is completely free (unless you want to be able to do the members-only stuff, and then it's like five dollars a month or something).

Pretty amazingly responsive, even with a dozen other people (and some cows and chickens) running to and fro all over the screen.

Speaking of The Sims and technology, the obvious way to add technological advancement to The Sims (as I suggested in passing yesterday) would be to do a Sims / Alpha Centauri crossover!

So you could plant xenofungus in the yard, and your character in the science track could go to work to help research Silksteel Armor or (in later generations) Gravships or Transcendant Thought, and you'd go from wood stoves to fusion generators to nanotech assemblers over the years; and up above the top of every career ladder there'd be Faction Leader! That makes more sense for some careers than others; it's hard to imagine how one would go from Professional Party Guest (the top of the Slacker career) to Faction Leader.

Or, come to think of it, it's not hard at all...

In Sims news, Marisa Zoom had a boy baby (yeah!), and her daughter Georgia had a birthday and is now a grownup. Numerous unnecessary photos follow!

Here's the house where it all happened:

The Zoom house

Note the classy deck.

Here's Marisa saying Hi to the newborn Hermes:

Marisa greets Hermes

(Hm, "Hermes Zoom". Good thing Sim kids don't get teased about their names. At least I hope they don't.)

Shortly after Hermes was born (but in a different universe), the little daughter's main family had twin boys. So the gender balance is swinging a bit more even.

The same day Hermes was born, Ransom and Melisa had a birthday party for Georgia, up on the new deck. Here she is making a wish:

Georgia wishing

I don't know what she wished for. It definitely wasn't a pink dress, but that's what she got:

Georgia grown up

Note Jane cheering loudly in the background, despite the pink dress.

Being in incompatible life-stages, Georgia and Jane are no longer in love, but they're still good friends. Here's Georgia hugging Jane somewhat condescendingly:

Georgia hugs Jane

Jane is thinking "pheh, just wait until I'm a grownup"; and in fact if these real-life children ever get off the computer today, that's probably the next order of business. That and Georgia going out clothes-shopping.

So enough Sims. How about Free Trade? I heard a story on NPR about CAFTA this morning, and I was thinking about Free Trade. I'm for it in theory, but not always in practice. Just to keep things abstract and theoretical, let's think about how Free Trade would work in our hypothetical ideal libertarian capitalist and socialist collectivist states (for which, by the way, we still need names!).

In the ideal collectivist state, the question doesn't even arise, really. It is of course the state that decides what to buy from sellers in other states (or, ideally, what to buy from other states; dealing with individuals is so dicey!). And when it makes that decision, it uses its usual models and community and expert input to weigh the cost versus the benefit, factoring in the lesser employment for in-State producers of the same or substitute goods, and so on. Simple!

In the ideal libertarian capitalist state, there are I think differences of opinion on the subject. Obviously "if one person wants to sell something, and someone else wants to buy it, the government has no business interfering" is something that makes everyone's head nod.

But there are also obvious (or obvious to most people) exceptions: if the seller doesn't actually own the thing, or came by it through force or fraud or theft, then the government should interfere. Not interfere with the exchange, so much, as interfere with the seller's possession of the good.

But what if the seller is outside the reach of the State, but the buyer isn't? What if the seller is a foreigner, wanting to sell stolen goods to a domestic buyer? Not being able to reach the seller, may (or should) the state prevent the sale, as a second-best action? Does the answer depend on whether the person from whom the good was stolen in the first place is a citizen of the state or not? When the state is unable to directly prevent or punish force or fraud, is it permitted to indirectly prevent the perp from benefitting from it, by (for instance) preventing the import of stolen goods? Perhaps there are political parties based around the answer to this question.

There are subtler kinds of theft. What if a foreign seller wants to sell something to a domestic buyer, and that thing was made with slave labor? The good was still stolen in an important sense. Can (should) the state prevent such importation, as in the previous case? What if the good was made with labor that wasn't exactly coerced in the obvious "shackles and whips" sense, but still fell far far short of the glorious freedom of the libertarian capitalist system? Perhaps there's even a political party that holds that all foreign goods (except those produced in other libertarian capitalist states) are essentially the product of slave labor, and therefore stolen goods, and therefore to be turned back at the borders by the police power, to discourage and/or punish the associated force and fraud and theft.

Allowing these stolen-goods transactions, this party might claim, is not only rewarding the original theft, it in fact constitutes a new theft, or at least an impermissible monopolistic practice, in that the thief can undercut the honest domestic producers who do not use theft in their production processes. And that the state is therefore obliged to intervene to prevent anti-competitive behavior.

How much of a role the state legitimately has in preventing anti-competitive behavior is no doubt another big political issue in the ideal libertarian capitalist state.

All of this supports, if anything, forbidding certain importations outright. It's less clear what might justify a tax on imports. Perhaps as a way of paying for the police force that's used to prevent the forbidden imports. But the question of whether or not that sort of taxation is a valid government action is another big political issue.

Socialism is so much simpler! *8)

You'll be spared Sims pictures today; the little daughter tore herself away from the system long enough that I could finally get a second floor onto the Zoom house (one bedroom really isn't enough for four people, and the lot's too small to build out much), but I can't bring myself to inflict a mere house picture on you.

Sims 2 lessons for real life: I was out by the Big Tub of Water watching the little boy swimming (his friends had all gone home for dinner, and he was having Just A Few More Minutes in the water). I hadn't brought along a book or anything, and the little boy was under water too often for reliable conversation. I looked around appreciatively at the light on the trees and the blue of the sky, and I thought, "Hm! Watch Clouds."

"Watch clouds" is a thing that you can have a Sim do when you want them to stay in one place (while waiting for a taxi, or for a friend to come over), that increases comfort and fun (or something like that), and that visually they seem to enjoy.

So I sat down on the ground and leaned back and watched the clouds for awhile. And Lo it was comfortable, and kinda fun. And the clouds were perty.

(There's a rumor that a Sim doing Watch Clouds can be killed by a falling satellite, but it's extremely rare. Even rarer in real life, one trusts.)

Why I have too many books: the other day Shalizi wrote: "One of the best books I've read on how science actually works is Stephen Toulmin's Human Understanding: The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts." I went over to Amazon, and they had it used but it was a little over my random-book budget. But then I browsed around other books by the same author, and one of them ("The Night Sky at Rhodes") had a great title, and was available used real cheap. It arrived yesterday.

This is why I have too many books. Or at least it's one reason.

Pictures of the entrance to Hell.

I'm in Wikipedia! There an entry about Slige (my old random Doom level generator), and it has my name in it. (It had my middle initial wrong until yesterday, when I fixed it.)

I've been thinking about validation again. Not HTML validation so much, as human validation, and the psychological and motivational aspects thereof. This topic comes up regularly (every few years?) here on the ol' weblogcast, and somewhat more often in my brain.

So there's an important category of experience which tells the mind (which can be, and/or which is, interpreted as telling the mind) "you are good", "you are admirable". This category has alot to do with what people do, and how people feel about themselves (and less directly about the world as a whole). We might, to a very rough approximation, expect people to seek out (consciously or not) such experiences (avoiding cognitive dissonance). We might also expect such experiences to be most effective when encountered unsought.

(When I was a wee youth I wrote in one of my adorably self-indulgent notebooks that all human action is motivated by "pleasure". I was honest enough to realize and admit, eventually, that that was only true under a particular definition of "pleasure" that made the statement more or less tautological.)

There's another category of experience which tells the mind (which can be, and/or which is, interpreted as telling the mind) "your ideas about the world are correct", "your attitudes do not need adjustment". We might also expect people to seek out such experiences, with the same caveat as above.

For people with positive self-images in the relevant aspect, the first category is a subset of the second; experiences which validate the self also validate the belief that the self is valid.

For people with negative self-images, or at least negative in some aspect, things are more complicated. I imagine there's a certain (what?) reward ("pleasure") in the thought "yep, I've failed, just as I knew I would." How does that compare to the thought "yikes, I succeeded; what does that mean about me?"

Do we actively seek out validating experiences? Do we seek to recreate the circumstances in which they've occurred in the past? Do we at the same time hide the seeking from ourselves, since the unsought experiences are the most effective? Is there a field of study that's actually figured out much of this stuff?

I should look and see if psychology has become a hard science since those courses I took in college. *8)

And relatedly (just to close on a Sims note) I wonder if game designers have official theories or guidelines on how often the typical player should be rewarded in order to keep em hooked on the game? The Sims 2 seems to have the interval down pretty well; the little glissandos of want-fulfillment happen just rarely enough to keep me trying for more.

(These guidelines would have to be broken down into various target audiences. "Under 5: reward at least once every thirty seconds... 12-18: minor rewards at 1-2 minute intervals, major rewards every 15-45 minutes, with extra irony.")

Bagels and lox with all four of us this morning; very nice. (Although the little boy had a friend sleeping over, so we weren't all simultaneously watching cartoons in the big bed; those days may be mostly over...)

I got gas at a gas station this morning, and at the pump next to me this very slick guy was filling up this very slick motorcycle; all shiny black and gleaming chrome, classy speakers mounted behind the seat, elegantly curved pipes and polished engine bits, leather logo jacket, and everything. And then he started up the engine, and it sounded like a cheap lawnmower with the choke adjusted wrong.

Motorcycles are weird.

Things it'd be cool if The Sims 2 had: weather, and technological advances. On the latter, I was thinking about multiple generations of Sims sitting around, with the old ones talking to the young ones about what The Old Days were like, and it occurred to me that (bizarrely) The Old Days in the Sims world are just like The New Days. Well, the family may be richer or larger or whatever, but the stuff they can buy, and the taxis that they ride in, and the clothes that they wear, are all exactly the same as they were N generations ago.

And that's not right...

In Sims news, Kaylynn the ex-maid went out shopping:

Looking for something that says 'not a maid'...

"There must be something that says 'this person is not a maid at &mdash'; ooh, hubba hubba!"

Neither of the guys turned out to be very interesting, but the shopping went pretty well:




Carrots, so many carrots

Chocolate crispies.

Hi, this is Mia. I'm not here right now 'cause I'm on vacation in London! Leave a message after the beep and I'll get back to you when I return.

My pet rat's name is Eleanor.

level 10 baby. In less than an hour

river cools the bones

9. Just 9.





Stock options

I'm sure Eleanor would be pleased; she seems like a pet-rat kind of person. (Pets are something that The Original Sims has in an expansion, and the Sims 2 doesn't. Yet. I don't remember if The Sims Unleashed has rats, though.)


No sop, no possum, no taters, no irish bacon.

hunger ants

As opposed to datincentive

I won't play if my Sims can't have a glowing tennis ball.

A banana in the tail pipe.


"Everyone is famous for 15 people."

I propose that you should change the name of the log to 'I have the best readers' as it seems to have become a little bit of a catchphrase :-)

Interesting contrast, eh?

That would be a good name for a weblog! Think of all the readers it would attract... *8)

"Mother forbids all guitar playing hereabouts."


"I said, Mother forbids all guitar playing hereabouts!"

"Oh, I care not what Mother forbids! I shall play my guitar regardless, kid."

"But Mother forbids all guitar playing hereabouts!"

So we've brought the little daughter home from camp! This is good for at least two reasons: first because as usual it's wonderful to have her back, and second because since she's expressed a great desire to play The Sims 2 that means that I will be forced to do something besides playing The Sims 2, and it's about time.

On the way back from Vermont, on New York Highway 295 between Route 22 and the Taconic State Parkway, there's a sign by the side of the road that says "Librarium — Old Books". Since this might (sniff!) be the last time we drive by that particular place for some undetermined amount of time, and I've always been curious but never quite curious enough to see what was at the other end of the sign, we turned off the road and went to see.

M remembers, and my memory offers nothing to contradict, that we tried this once before, but it was closed. Today it was open, and Lo it was an old vaguely rambling house, with a couple of porches and a number of doors, and one door on one porch had an OPEN sign, and we went in.

There were lots and lots of books inside (and book- and bookstore-related cartoons tacked up here and there, and classical music playing, and a friendly woman to greet us). Although I'm too busy these days writing in my weblog and playing The Sims 2 to actually read more than a few books, I still love them. I bought eight; here they are.

Dan Brown, "Angels & Demons". Have heard enough about it not to buy it new, but at $2.75 seemed like a good risk.

Vlad Nabokov, "Nabokov's Dozen". Thirteen (baker, Nabokov, dozen, get it?) short stories by Nabokov. I like Nabokov; maybe someday I'll get around to reading these stories.

D. H. Lawrence, "Women in Love". A nice paperback Penguin edition. I said to M, "Do we have 'Women in Love'?", and she said "I don't know, we might not", so I bought it.

Ursula K. Le Guin, "Always Coming Home". I like Le Guin, I don't think I've read this one. The back cover promises that it will totally immerse me in the culture of the Kesh, a peaceful people who inhabit a place called the Valley on the Northern Pacific coast. Sounds groovy.

McLuhan et. al., "McLuhan: Hot & Cool". Essays about, and responses by, Marshall McLuhan. Sounds very hip and 1967.

Victor Appleton, "Tom Swift and his Chest of Secrets" (copyright 1925). Can't go wrong with Tom Swift!

Soyen Shaku, "Zen for Americans" (translated by D. T. Suzuki). See recent rekindling of interest in Zen etc. Although natch I've been playing The Sims 2 so much recently that my zazen has suffered. (Ha ha, zazen, suffered: that's funny!)

"Life" magazine, November 23, 1936 (the first issue). Not the original (that would probably be more than $3.00), but a more recent small-size reprint of it. The ads are, of course, great. ("First Pictures & Details about the New Plymouth / The Biggest, Roomiest Plymouth Ever Built".)

Good thing we were in a hurry to get home, or I might have bought several more linear feet of books; sheesh!

In the inevitable Sims 2 news, I haven't played a huge amount since I last wrote, and the little daughter has been running into a horrible bug where a lot becomes "haunted" by dozens or even hundreds of invisible service people (repair persons in her case) who hang around just off camera (or something) and mess stuff up. There are some workarounds, but they don't entirely solve the problem. So now the poor thing has moved the family out of their (haunted) lot, and is re-creating their house on a pristine unhaunted lot. Ouch!

Three pictures tonight (somewhat smaller than last week, so as not to hog too much bytespace). Funny story: after Kaylynn (the former maid) moved into the Raptor's place, I looked into the dresser to see if her maid's outfit was in there for other people to wear. It wasn't (I have the vague impression that job uniforms only show up in dressers for other people to wear once you install the University expansion pack, and I'm not sure that the maid's outfit counts as a job uniform anyway), but for some reason there was a mail carrier's uniform in there (dunno why). So all the ladies dressed up in it, as a prank on Gina (who was still a child at the time):

The postman rings three times

(Gina is saying, "WTF, Aunt Kaylynn?")

And here's an egregious snapshot of mother and daughter shortly after Gina became a teenager:

Sally and Gina

(Maybe I'm posting these to make up for not being able to post pictures of my real live family for the obvious privacy reasons. And so that I can mention how reluctant I find myself to let Sally age into an elder and ultimately die; she seems to be having such a good time as an adult. I wonder if God writes similar things in his weblog, one ontological level up.)

And speaking of having a good time as an adult, here are the three Raptors, all dancing together:

Sally and Eleanor and Gina

This time Eleanor is saying "You know, Mom, the mailman gag is getting prety old."

I think this will be remembered as an idyllic time in the annals of the Raptor clan...