Aug 17, 2020

The last word on Epic v. Apple

Epic is rallying the gamers in its fight against the evil empire, Apple Computer Company, for the good of freedom everywhere Tim Sweeney's bottom line.

They're suing Apple because they can't sell virtual gambling money on Apple phones without Apple taking 30%.

On Google phones, the same thing is happening, but Google phones aren't locked down to programs from the app store. People can download the Fortnite .apk directly from Epic and install it on their phones.

This is acceptable. This is how software on phones (i.e., computers) should work. You shouldn't have to go through the manufacturer's proprietary store to install a program on your computer. We should normalize this. Apple shouldn't be allowed to sell computers where people have to pay them to make a program for it. Developers should be allowed to distribute a program somewhere other than Apple's proprietary platform and take all the money if they want. If the result of the Epic lawsuit is that small developers are allowed to write programs for a popular computer platform without paying Apple protection money, that would be a good outcome for everyone.

That's not going to happen. What'll happen is that there will be some settlement or deal for Epic, Tim Sweeney & Tencent'll get paid, and 0% of people should give a solitary fuck about that. Good job watering down whatever valid points you might been able to make about Apple with this infantile stunt, dipshits.

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Aug 11, 2020

The center-left has a rhetoric problem

Liberals have a persuasion problem. If you're upset that I'm picking on liberals specifically, please understand that conservative arguments take the form of direct reality manipulation and reinforcement of fascist ideals through repetition, so their media is outside the scope of this type of analysis. Everything they do is bad, but also immune to useful critique. Everyone who agrees with it is so thoroughly inside the reality distortion field that nothing can help them outside of intense soul-searching and counseling; everyone who already knows it's bad doesn't need further convincing. The apolitical centrists to whom the bulk of corporate media is targeted are the only ones worth trying to reach.

(also, I'm not implying that the left-left doesn't have a rhetoric problem; many of them do, particularly authcoms aligned with Marxism-Leninism, but at this stage of our neoliberal dystopia, they're so marginal that they're not worth focusing on. There's also the vampire castle, but that's a fight for another day.)

The most pernicious type of bad liberal argument is the hypocrisy call-out. There's nothing liberals love more than pointing out a logical inconsistency between two contradictory viewpoints a conservative claims to hold. Most of the "destroyed with facts and logic" posts you see shared featuring monologues from pundits like John Stewart and John Oliver take this form. These arguments are popular because they're easy, and a good performance can make them superficially impressive. The problem is that they don't work. Calling out hypocrisy has never moved the needle on any conservative's approval rating, at least not in my lifetime. As long as they didn't do anything illegal, there's nothing stopping them from ignoring, deflecting, and distracting from these types of callouts ad infinitum. It doesn't matter how thoroughly the person was "destroyed", they continue their reality distortion project and everyone forgets about it a few days later.

For the self-identified apolitical status quo conservative (which I'd argue describes most people in the US), the total lack of substance in these arguments has the opposite effect. It makes the quote-unquote "leftist" making the argument look weak and ineffective, and makes them less likely to want to associate with them. I'm not saying this is a huge blight on discourse, and those people are likely to move to the right anyway, but it's definitely a waste of effort.

One incredibly common hypocrisy gotcha I've seen time and time again since the Pandemic's been underway goes something like this: "Oh, so you want to tell women what to do with their bodies, but you complain about being told to wear a mask? Doesn't feel good, does it?"

Even the liberal knows this argument doesn't hold water, because they know the psychology of the conservative, and they know that anti-abortion activism comes from systemic misogyny. Deep down, they know this isn't going to change anyone's mind, no one's going to look at this and say "good point". This is the kind of argument that crumbles instantly with even the slightest bit of pushback. Imagine you say this and someone says "Ok, you're right, we'll start wearing masks if it means we get to keep controlling women's bodies", or "You're right, we'll stop pushing back against abortion so we don't have to wear masks."

There's no response at this point. The person's addressed your charge of hypocrisy, so if you continue by saying "no, we want women to have autonomy AND we want people to wear masks", now the liberal is the one who looks dishonest. Why were they calling out hypocrisy if hypocrisy wasn't the actual issue? Because it's an easy argument. It's an insubstantial gotcha that does nothing but score points with other liberals but is the opposite of convincing to anyone else.

The article that inspired me to write this is one that I saw shared on social media recently, Stop Tossing Your Banana Peel On The Trail. The author argues that organic litter like banana peels and apple cores are just as unsightly as potato chip bags and plastic bottles, and doesn't decompose as quickly as people think it does. This isn't necessarily a liberal/conservative framing, but environmental protection is often seen as a liberal cause, and conservatives and reactionaries are the ones who are going to have a problem being told what to do, so I think it's applicable.

Now, this isn't something I've thought about before, and I'm sure I've carelessly tossed food on the ground before, but since I'm a reasonable person, I think "Oh, some people don't like that. Well, no problem, the next time I'm in the woods I'll make sure I have a baggie in my backpack so I can hang onto food trash until I can throw it away."

But if you were you only trying to reach reasonable people, you wouldn't even need to write a persuasive essay. You'd say "hey, when you throw food on the ground in the woods it sticks around for awhile and a lot of people think it's an eyesore, could you not do that?" People are aware of the problem, they can now correct the problem. But that's not much of an article, so you gotta come up with some points.

The problem is, the points suck. The arguments are weak. If I wasn't a reasonable person, I not only wouldn't be convinced, I would probably double down, because I recognize that way the author is framing the issue is dishonest, self-serving moralizing.

The next time you witness such casual tossage, then, ask the perpetrator: Would you be cool with a stranger flinging a “natural” banana peel into your front yard? No?

Yes, actually. I would most likely not even notice it. Don't ask a hypothetical question, and continue with the assumption that the reader answers the question the same way you would. It weakens all of your other arguments.

In fact, an apple core can take two months to decompose; a banana skin or orange peel, two years, leaving plenty of time for animals who shouldn’t eat it to come along and eat it.

That's awful! Why shouldn't the animals eat it? Is it poisonous to them? Are they going to choke on it and die? What actual harm is it doing to animal life in the area? Are there statistics about animals harmed by food litter? Oh, you don't know, it's just another assumption you're making so readers feel bad about maybe potentially harming hypothetical animals. I know there's a perception that apple seeds can be harmful to dogs, but the actual risk is extraordinarily small, and a small dog would have to eat 100 apple cores before any significant risk of toxicity. Are other animals harmed by banana peels or apple cores? Is there another risk I don't know about? I don't know, but that would've been a great subject for the author to research before writing a persuasive essay.

Please don't mistake these rebuttals as my own; if other people think that food scraps are an eyesore and we shouldn't throw food on the ground, I am 100% ok making the small change to my behavior that you're requesting. But again, I'm not the one you're trying to convince. If I, a reasonable person, feel like your arguments are annoying and condescending, how do you think someone not on your side is going to react? Do you think these arguments are persuasive? Are they going to change anyone's mind? If not, then why are you writing it?

Photo of an apple eaten almost down to the core
When I was a kid I was told that if I throw an apple core in the grass where there aren't a lot of trees around, there might be an apple tree there someday. I don't know if seeds from supermarket apples can really sprout in the wild like that, but I never saw any harm in trying it.
And sure, I'll take my own medicine: do I think that my arguments are going to persuade anyone that they should think harder about their arguments? Well, maybe. I'm no master of debate, I haven't studied rhetoric, but I feel like I'm being honest, and my points ring true at least to myself. I'm not making any assumptions, I'm just talking about my observations and how I feel about them. I think it's not impossible that a sympathetic but misguided reader will see this and think a little more critically about these types of arguments in the future; but also, this journal is mostly written for myself, I don't advertise or make money from this, and I don't think my writing should necessarily be held to the same standard as those in Outside Magazine. They're intentionally seeking engagement. They're trying to draw in new readers with sharing widgets, calls to action, SEO and syndication. (That's where I first encountered the story: it was republished on Mozilla's "Pocket" service and shared on my facebook feed.) I think that makes this story a worthy subject for critique, whereas I might not have bothered if I stumbled across the same piece in someone's livejournal.

Of course, I could be wrong too, so leave a comment if you have a counter-argument and I'll think about it some more.

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Aug 8, 2020

Comments for August 2-August 8; a doomy tangent

Spriteclad left a comment on New journal title; also, apropos of nothing, fuck spotify:
You could also use a P2P service such as Soulseek, or something like Deezerloader that scrapes songs from streaming services without having to buy them. (You'll need a free Deezer account before being able to use the latter, though.) Also on an unrelated note: I get why you moved to Blogger, but it feels like a step down compared to a self-hosted blog in my opinion, because it opens the doorway to the hosting service just disappearing at any second with barely any warning. And yes, yes, I know Blogger has existed for ages and it's a Google product, but that hasn't stopped Google before...
Yeah, I'm aware of how unwise it is to buy into any google-owned platform at this stage of the internet, and I'm not expecting it to be around forever. However, the fact that it's been around as long as it has and has such low overhead compared to other web stuff means I expect google won't have as much incentive to close it down. It probably doesn't make them much money these days but I'm sure its cost is a drop in the bucket.

The backup format is just basic XML, so I'm hoping that in the eventuality that blogger does get the axe, I'll have an abundance of platforms I can move to. I imagine the next step would be installing wordpress or something.

Blogger is definitely a step up in terms of motivating me to write, since the WYSIWYG box makes it as simple as possible, it's constantly auto-saving when I write so I'm not at risk of losing anything, and it's trivial to just jot down some ideas in a draft for later. I like the hassle of FTP and HTML not being a barrier to doing a thing. Edit: Also, it just takes care of the RSS feed for me instead of me having to do it manually and getting rid of it because it's too much of a hassle, and that's something everyone can enjoy.


This next response isn't to a comment on this journal, but I got an e-mail regarding my doom mod asking how to change it so you have a pistol instead of a shotgun, and I thought it might be helpful to publicly post the little explanation.
Read more »

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Aug 4, 2020

New journal title; also, apropos of nothing, fuck spotify

This internet web journal diary is now known as "blue land, black sky"

It's, uh, it's a name. It's at least English words that people can remember. Doesn't really mean anything, other than the reference to Blue Lander, my pseudo namesake. The two color thing is a strong naming pattern in music (viz. Blonde Hair Black Lungs (content warning: suicide ideation and emotional manipulation) and Blue Sky Black Death, probably some others I'm forgetting)

So like, it'll do

The first link is to bandcamp and the second link is to youtube. Whenever I link to music, my first preference is always bandcamp, because anyone can click it and listen to the song in their web browser immediately. Bandcamp rules and I wish all music was available there. If you listen to the song enough times, it'll stop and ask you to buy it, which is reasonable.

My second preference is youtube, because anyone can listen to it in their web browser as long as they're on a computer. You'll probably get an ad if you don't have any sort of blocker  installed. Sorry about that. You should probably install uBlock origin if you don't already have it. I'll never link to spotify cause fuck 'em:

David Crosby on twitter calling Spotify CEO Daniel Ek an obnoxious greedy little shit; Mike Mills of REM telling Daniel Ek to go fuck himself

I understand that money for luxuries is tight right now, but if you pay for spotify, one easy and positive thing you can do for artists is to torrent music (or use youtube-dl to obtain it from other sources) and use the money you were spending on spotify to buy an album a month on bandcamp instead. More of your money will be going to artists and less will be going to greasy slimeball and exploitative shitbag billionaire Daniel Ek. Morally, it's the right call.

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Aug 1, 2020

Comments for July 26–August 1

Since I don't have an integrated comments box, I figure I'll do an end-of-week comments summary—which shouldn't be too weird of an idea, since that's basically how Tumblr does comments. You can technically leave a comment in the "notes" on a post but nobody will ever see it, so traditionally comments are left in the "ask" box and the writer addresses them later, sometimes when they have time, or sometimes in a dedicated regular post. Think of it as an ask box instead of a traditional comment system. (not expecting this to become a regular feature, but you never know.)

Anyway, rdh left a comment on I'm going to stop saying "blog" from July 28th:
You could put your log on gopher, in which case they call it a phlog. Or on a video streaming service, and they call it a vlog

As far as I can tell, a "phlog" is just a website with extra steps. I don't care to learn how to look at a gopher zone without going through some sort of web proxy. The browser I already have is just fine for looking at minimalist text-only websites, I'm not interested in downloading another program for that.

Vlogs are also on the web, unless people are uploading raw video files to a direct download feed instead of youtube, and I don't think that's a thing.

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Data Corruption: A Star Trek TNG episode I dreamed last night

A clone of Data snuck on board the enterprise and tried to kill Data. He was caught in the act and thrown in the brig. When questioned, he claimed that the Data on the ship was from a race of shapeshifting aliens who had imprisoned him, the real Data, and been living among the rest of the crew gathering intelligence on the Federation for years. He said that he had just broken out of his confines, made his way back to the ship, and was there to expose the imposter and take his place back on the ship.

No one believed him, but just to be thorough, Picard asked the Enterprise's Data to open his maintenance access panel. Data refused. He said opening his access panel for someone is a major breach of his privacy, and it should only be opened in absolute emergencies, which this clearly wasn't. He was shocked that Picard would suggest such a thing because of some imposter's obviously made up story.

A 3d render of a bald Commander Data, in uniform.
I haven't watched Star Trek yet. Sorry.

Back at the brig, Picard asked the doppleganger to open his access panel, which he did without hesitation. Picard checked his serial number against the registration database, and it did match the serial number of the Data assigned to the enterprise. It seemed unlikely that an imposter would be able to get such a small detail right.

After much soul-searching, Picard stunned the ship's Data with his phaser, tried to open his access panel, and discovered that it was fake. Just lines drawn on his back. He asked Dr. Crusher to analyze the person, and it was indeed some type of unknown alien, not an Android.

Picard and his crew threw the fake Data in the brig, and Picard had a tearful and apologetic reunion with the real Data. However, not all was well. The knowledge that an imposter had been on board their ship for years without their knowledge rattled their crew. The real Data was changed by his years imprisoned by this hostile race, and acted erratically. The doppleganger race didn't know how to adjust Data's programming to manipulate him, but that didn't stop them from trying. Their random tinkering had strange, lasting effects on his cognition and personality. He would frequently lash out at the other crew members, have lapses where he stared into space unable to talk, and was generally aloof and standoffish. His behavior was un-androidlike, and others on the Enterprise found it suspicious. Picard asked Data to wipe his memory of the time with the aliens, but Data said no, it was too valuable to the Federation. This unknown doppleganger race posed a huge threat to the galaxy, and every detail he had about them would be crucial in defending against them.

The fake Data, meanwhile, awaited his fate in the brig. He still maintained that he was the real Data and the new one was the imposter. His demeanor was calm and utterly androidlike; he was unflappable. He said he was disappointed in the actions of the crew but knew the truth would come out. Some crew members, unable to deal with the cognitive dissonance, refused to accept that this Data was an imposter. Even though it didn't make any sense, and they could see the X-rays showing that this was an organic life form and not an android, they knew that this somehow HAD to be the real Data. A schism starts to form....

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Jul 31, 2020

Archive Dive: DOS Slots

Welcome to Archive Dive, a feature I just made up where I talk about an interesting old game (or maybe other thing) I came across on the Internet Archive.

The first installment is about a game that's not very interesting per se, but I have several questions about its existence. It's Microbucks II: An Electronic Marvel. It's a slot machine for DOS computers circa 1989.

Microbucks 2 Title Screen
A five exclamation point title screen. Brace yourself for excitement

Read more »

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Jul 29, 2020

It must be good, otherwise they wouldn't be trying to sell it

The  struggle for novelty in a world where everything is  being sold and re-sold to us ad nauseam means that marketing has become tautological - we see something being advertised, and we can only assume it's good because otherwise, we wouldn't be seeing the ad. A new feature must be good, otherwise they wouldn't be pointing it out. The ingredient they mention on the front of the box must be particularly good, otherwise it wouldn't be on the front of the box. That's the assumption, explicit for the sellers and implicit for the buyers.

My favorite example of this is when a brand of root beer started advertising itself a few years ago as containing "aged vanilla". Is aging vanilla good? Does it make it taste better? Why have we never seen a reference to aging vanilla before? How long is it aged? Is it longer or shorter than vanilla in other products?

Of course, as everyone knows (and as was the subject of a recent class-action lawsuit), it doesn't contain vanilla at all. But that doesn't matter. Purchase decisions are based on quick, subconscious value judgements; by the time we register how absurd it is, we've already decided to buy it.

We don't think we bought it because of the aged vanilla, we simply think that we haven't had root beer in awhile, and it'd be a nice treat. At every conscious level, people understand that marketing is all lies, which is why people think they're immune to advertising (and propaganda.) But the goal of advertising is to create an emotional connection on a subconscious level. Other types of food and drink we associate with high quality (and signifier of luxury) are described as "aged" — wine, whisky, expensive cheese and vinegar. This subconscious emotional reaction tricks us into thinking we want something we don't. Nobody on the planet would say they decided to buy this root beer because it said it had aged vanilla in it (unless they're trying to get money in a class-action lawsuit), but I bet the company's sales numbers went up.

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Happy happy birthday, we hope today is great

Now that "Happy Birthday" is public domain, future generations watching old movies and TV shows aren't going to understand the jokes about non-infringing birthday songs.

Or maybe current generations already don't understand them? I dunno, has anyone actually used the happy birthday song in media now that they're allowed to, or is the fact that they're now allowed to not interesting enough to justify it? Maybe filmmakers and TV writers are going to continue avoiding it just out if inertia, or because the song is just a cliché they want to avoid. Maybe unique birthday songs will be a normal part of the viewing experience for years to come.

I bet the genre that's gotten the most use out of the public domain-ing is found footage films; it's a good, free way to add verisimilitude to spooky old home movies of family gatherings we're supposedly watching. Filming children's birthday parties was like the #1 use of consumer video cameras, until everyone had a video camera in their pockets at all times and it's no longer novel. But still, for 20th century period pieces, I bet it's handy.

I don't think found footage films are super common anymore either, though, and I imagine it's too hokey to include in an actual proper cinematic movie film. Maybe it was better when the birthday song was off-limits, because it inspired people to think of creative ways around the restriction, or funny ways to subvert it.

Either way, big thanks to U.S. District Judge George King for at least giving us the option. He's a jolly good fellow, no one can deny that.

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Jul 28, 2020

Posts subject to editing

Just a heads-up for anyone actually reading this, all posts here will be subject to basically constant editing within 48 hours of being posted, and may disappear entirely, depending on how I feel after that. Most of the editing will be for grammar and syntax and trying to get my point across effectively, but I may sometimes correct something I misunderstood without calling attention to it. It happens, people get stuff wrong, and if I get something wrong in a major way that causes people harm, I'll own up to it — for small inaccuracies that don't really matter, I don't feel bad about stealth edits.

I tried to do something about this anxiety by making sort of an anti-blog over on yonder website with no datestamps, structure, or illusion of permanence; it's fine, but also, I like structure, and one of the functions of a journal is having a record of events in my life, and a nebulous morass of paragraphs isn't a good way to do that.

So yeah, sorry if stuff changes, I'm not doing a journalism here, self-editing is hard, and I'm going to give myself permission to screw up.

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