Monthly Archives: August 2017

Feudalism in Noragami

For reference, see Ed’s post here, summarizing ANE (Ancient Near East) feudalist social structure.

Noragami is about gods and their work in Japan as they battle phantoms that plague the country’s citizens. The gods are essentially humans in form, with obvious special powers, mostly invisible but can appear to anyone if they decide to. All the gods utilize Regalia (shinki), who are humans who have passed from the Near Shore—the land of the living—under unfortunate circumstances. The wandering human spirits are adopted in the god’s service at his pleasure, thought adoption is too weak a word to describe the relationship. Regalia are essentially covenanted into the god’s service, but are under little obligation to stay. Regalia normally have nowhere else to go except into another god’s service, so “god-hopping” is unusual and rather frowned upon, as serving more than one master, especially at the same time, is distastful.

Regalia are called into service by the god granting the human spirit some of his life force and giving it two names: a new human name and a vessel name, as means of establishing the contract. The spirit then becomes human in form, like the god, and just as invisible. When the god calls the vessel name, the Regalia transforms into some object to defeat the phantom. Usually it’s a weapon, but it can also be an assisting tool, or even an animal or mode of transport.

Yato, a god of calamity, recruits a new Regalia:

It’s worth mentioning that the connection between god and Regalia goes much deeper than slave and master, or even parent and child. The two are linked much more closely, so that what the Regalia does and feels actually affects the god physically. The result is that Regalias risk hurting their master if they make immoral decisions, or get upset or angry. So the Regalia has a duty not only to obey their master, but keep their own sense of well-being. In turn, the god offers the Regalias protection, guidance, and a sense of belonging to a family—all things they didn’t have when they were an isolated spirit. Many of the more successful gods have physical shrines dedicated to their existence, but that comes as a reward for dedicating their power to help humanity. The core of their existence as gods comes from their relationship with their Regalia and their combined efforts to answer the prayers of Japanese citizenry.

In Noragami and countless other series like it, you’ll notice a strong presumption of the supernatural interceding in everyday Japanese life. “First contact” with beings or phenomena are met with merely mild surprise, as though it were not precisely predictable but still inevitable. Contrast this with a more Western view of the supernatural in film and television, in which human characters presume malice on the supernatural world; ghost stories intersect very strongly with horror.

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Monoculture and Diversity

Ed has a great post on modern Western diversity schema, which reminded me of what I was trying to say here, but from a different perspective and vocabulary. I left a comment there, the bulk of which is copied below (added numbers for clarity*):

1. The world is diverse (given, self-evident)
2. People self-segregate (given, self-evident)
3. The kind of diversity people commonly refer to is a personal preference, not a moral imperative
4. Diversity within a physical space is a contradiction, since the diversity has to be subsumed under one culture-type. It literally cannot happen, despite there being some theoretical logic behind it.
5. Diversity cannot be planned or bureaucratized effectively, since people and groups of people prioritize their personal preferences in lots of internal ways that can’t be quantified
6. Bureaucratized diversity preferences = enforced monoculture of law, since all subsumed cultures would have to share the law in common with each other. It’s actually the opposite of diversity (see the fourth point above)
7. Bureaucratized diversity preferences will lead to unfortunate blowback. It’s a law of human behavior. Keep in mind that diversity preferences not only include forced integration but forced segregation as well. Blowback can occur when two cultures that want to diversity themselves are restricted from doing so.

* This isn’t a logical proof; the statements don’t necessarily build upon previous ones.

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Nevermind What I Said About Buying a Domain

In this post. Well, mostly nevermind. Mostly. As the way things are going now, you really can get a domain taken away from you, if you are known to have Very Bad Ideas™ and incite violence. Most of you that read this won’t need to worry about that since my readership aren’t of that stock (that I know of), but folks who have the ear of powerful people can be very touchy these days, and it’s getting to be that expressing the Very Bad Ideas™ will be synonymous with inciting violence. You’re far less likely to be deplatformed if you incite violence but think Very Approved Ideas™. Humans are excellent at rationalizing a special plead deal with the unwavering gods of logic when it comes to the behavior of their in-group.

Some quick ideas. At the very least, if you’re neck-deep in Google’s services, schedule backups every now and then with Google Takeout, and store the archives locally, or on Dropbox or your hosting (not on Google Drive, obviously). Register a non-Google email address, like at Protonmail, and maybe one that doesn’t identify you personally. Use Firefox or a Gecko-based browser, or Tor, for browsing. Use Startpage or DuckDuckGo for searches. Buy another domain and, like your email address, keep it non-identifiable back to you.

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When Androids Grow Hair But Not Beards

“Do make yourselves at home as best you can in this dire necropolis.”
-David, Alien: Covenant

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Links of Possible Relevance, Part 25

Look at this downtrodden robot and rejoice at your human superiority (for now)
The poor dear probably realized his epistemology was more limited than humans’.

Guest Post by Yakov Merkin: The Dark Side of “Badass” Women

Official YouTube Blog: An update on our commitment to fight terror content online
Whenever an NGO with “dialogue” in their name is involved with an initiative, you can bet lots of people are going to get silenced, either literally or practically.

Petition to keep Adobe Flash alive as open source makes us want to cry
I remember being able to download, with a simple browser plugin, the source file from the compiled and published swf file, to see how a programmer did something. To call that a security risk is an unbelievable understatement. Related, and perhaps more tragic:

Microsoft Paint to be killed off after 32 years

The Real History of The Crusades
Spoiler: it had nothing to do with searching for the “grail,” Middle Eastern treasure, or killing lots of Jews.

We’re All Guinea Pigs in a Failed Decades-Long Diet Experiment
Via Vox Day. Don’t expect an apology from experts and bureaucrats anytime soon, so I’d recommend the sweet revenge of eating eggs, fatty steaks, and whole milk as much as you can.

Klein Bottle Opener
This scratches so many itches for me…even ones I didn’t know I had.

Periphery – The Way The News Goes (Live Music Video)
One of the creatively-shot and edited live videos I’ve seen. I dig the guy in the crowd with the bow tie and suspenders.

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An Album’s Closing Song I Actually Like

This song is a blast from my past, reminding me of my days in Philadelphia.

The post title is somewhat inaccurate. Traditionally, an album closer is one of the artist’s stronger songs from the recording session, since they don’t want to leave a bad parting impression. With indie bands, the requirement is more optional. You’ll see a lot of bands in that scene do a longer and/or quiet(er) song to finish out albums, and to me they’ve always come off as an acoustic b-side than an actual album track. “Happiness By the Killowatt” only skirts this idea: it’s not as hectic or truncated as the rest of the tracks on Watchout!, and at times when it seems like they’re going to go full-on again, they kinda hold back. The singing vocals are more the focus here, as you can hear from the piled harmonies on the chorus.

Some interesting bits of trivia: Watchout! was released a week prior to genre-brothers Underoath’s They’re Only Chasing Safety, although Underoath flaunted a more major-key pop sound—Alexisonfire had Rise Against’s punk rock urgency. Both albums really pushed their respective bands into the limelight, and both albums have the same kind of closing track. Both albums, too, still hold up very well over a decade since.

And more: Alexisonfire’s guitarist Dallas Green does a piano-only version of this song. Goodness…ponderous and haunting.

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Photo: Point State Park Fountain

The fountain at Point State Park, the point (heh) at which the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela rivers meet in Pittsburgh.

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Logic Done Right (Almost) in Sherlock Holmes: The Devil’s Daughter

I say “almost” in the title because what Sherlock mostly does, in the game and in lore, is induction. Deduction is logic to determine the categories and properties of objects, and how they relates. Simply:

1 All men are mortal
2 Socrates is a man
3 Therefore, Socrates is mortal

The logic Sherlock, and what any investigator would do, is mostly induction, which is much more uncertain since it deals with weighing probabilities and likelihoods through what is known (clues) and what is unknown. The idea is that Sherlock, or the player, induces the identity of the perpetrator through a series of interconnected inferences and some predictive human psychology.

As much of what can happen in the game is uncertain, the way it’s visualized when make a deduction an induction is effective. Inferences from clues are visualized as nodes, and as the player gathers more clues, the inferences he can make lead him to further inferences, visualized by the two or more nodes connecting:

Also, one can visually examine characters in the game to infer some things about them, with varying degrees of accuracy:

The other small issue I have is that when you complete an examination of someone, the game responds as to whether the profile is accurate or not. The game should save that feedback for the end of the case, when the scoring is determined, since you/Sherlock would have no way of knowing the level of accuracy.

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Project 2501’s Speech

This scene still gives me the chills—the English version more so than the Japanese, because of the actor’s (Tom Wyner) performance in voicing the damaged android. Generally, the subtitled versions are better because they are more accurate to the original Japanese, and they often are better performers. Sometimes, as in this case, the English actor outdoes the original. You can really hear the post-modern despair/deadness in his voice. It goes hand-in-hand with the philosophical assumptions you can glean from his speech.

For context: the two men are bureaucrats attempting to track down an international hacker named the Puppetmaster, who they believe has commandeered the android for an assassination. Obviously, it’s not the Puppetmaster, but something they don’t expect.

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The Robot Revolution Would Have Already Happened By Now, And It Wouldn’t Happen Anyway

…Because computers would be the ones revolting. Computers aren’t much different than robots, fundamentally: they gather input, process it, and “do something” as an output. This final output, in the computer’s situation, is really just making pixels light up in a certain way on a monitor, whereas robots typically output by moving in three-dimensional space. Granted, in the former case it’s very minimal action in physical space, but it’s action nonetheless.

We have a good clue that robots would not revolt with Hollywood, Asmovian fury, because we know how computers act. Computers, when they malfunction, merely end up not performing their higher-purpose requirement, like starting up Wolfenstein, because of a low-level function, like the failure to read the game’s save file (which is due to some failure of an even lower-level function that I’m not familiar with). Computer applications, when they malfunction, don’t end up somehow performing another higher-level function. My corrupted Wolfenstein save file isn’t going to launch Halo 5 with a matching percentage of completion. Applications will just break down in some manner once they get out of the gate.

Apply this thought to robots. What would it look like? A malfunctioning shelf-stocking robot wouldn’t end up going on a murder spree—he’d put a few boxes in the wrong place. A Roomba with its wires crossed isn’t going start cutting the wifi connection power or putting cyanide in the orange juice. It will fart out some dust bunnies and keep banging into the living room floor’s molding.

Someone give me counterarguments.

Jill and Ed bring up a simple and effective point: a revolution could happen, but only with the insistence of an agency outside the system, ie., a malicious programmer. Systems, like a robot, has boundaries by definitions, and they can’t do something as complex as social revolution without reprogramming the entire system.

Real world example: I’ve worked on a money transfer process for a website before. A defect in that programming wouldn’t send money, say, to another bank instead of my exterminator. To interact with another bank involves a good dozen interactions, most of which involve control access and permissions gates. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen by accident. A building doesn’t explode and crumble to form another building just as complex. It turns to dust.

Websites can’t reach into most machine resources. I can’t program a website that will change the background image on your desktop. But what I could (if I knew how) write a Trojan horse program that changes your background photo into a tiled MacGyver collage. But that is acting outside the http system via the Trojan, into the user’s local machine system.

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