Perspective on War

While I don’t claim to be a social scientist, I can see a trend; and it’s a good one.

War seems to be in a downward spiral. And no, I don’t think we’re moving toward a global peace. If the recent decision not to move the Doomsday Clock away from three-minutes-to-midnight is any indication, we’re not anywhere near real lasting peace. But a lack of peace from active war is going out of style. And if you don’t know the Doomsday Clock, watch the opening of Zack Snyder’s Watchmen film adaptation again. You can’t miss it and the image is quite apt for the themes of the story.

Without going into too much detail, for which I’ll link to some very informative videos below, human society hasn’t seen a single massive war since World War Two. That’s not to say we haven’t experienced war. But when compared to WW2, every single armed conflict since 1945 just doesn’t add up; in scale or in impact on the human species.

I think we’re moving toward a world without conflicts between nation-states. It’s not a fast process and I’m sure it’ll be exacerbated by relatively small, but impactful, attacks like those on New York City in 2001 and Paris in 2015 in the west, and those lesser known but no less deadly attacks in Kukawa and Khan Bani Saad just last year in Africa and the Middle East. In any event, I see us becoming more at peace with ourselves as a species in the coming century – as long as the oil holds out anyway. But that’s a story for another day.

If you want to see where I drew these conclusions – or at least ideas – from, take a look at the videos below. The first is Kurzgesagt’s speculation into the paradox of how a warring world can be at peace. The second is a sobering look at the sheer number of deaths in World War Two compared to themselves and other massive human conflicts. Both are powerful and full of interesting information.

I hope you find these an interesting and thought-provoking as I do.

Until next time,

-M

Perspective on War

Everyday Heroes

Since it ended (and hit Steam as a sale item), I’ve been kinda’ obsessing over Life Is Strange. It’s an episodic adventure game using a sort of point and click interaction. If you know The Walking Dead, you’re familiar with point and click gaming.

This particular game has a catch. The main character, a somewhat disillusioned young photographer called Max, finds that she can rewind time around her to redo actions she’s taken. I’ll be honest, that was one of the things that hooked me. The other was the preview of the story that sought to convince me that the story was far, far deeper than a teenager and her  camera. And boy were they right.

My point is that Life Is Strange is a fantastic game and well worth the full price (and I’m trying to justify the special edition to myself even though I’m not employed at the moment. I think I’ll put it off a little while).

In a more meta place, the distributor, Square Enix, brought the fiction of the game into reality. Part of the story, and without spoiling anything, is the Everyday Heroes contest. This is a photography contest that takes place during the week this game covers. The theme, surprisingly, is the everyday hero.

Square is running the contest in real life at the moment, so I took to submitting an image I’ve been sitting on for a few years now. Maybe you recognize the subject?

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I captioned the piece for the story it represents: a mother of three took in two emotionally stunted teenagers years before she was meant to have to deal with teenage problems and managed to get two decently well adjusted adults out of the whole thing. Being one of those teenagers, I feel uniquely able to judge in this regard.

Life is, indeed, strange; and strange things happen. Sometimes, the shit hits the fan all at once. That’s OK. It just means the problems will vanish all at once rather than festering for years on end. Here I’ll raise a glass to my family’s fortune and happiness in the near future.

Until next time,

-M

Originally published here.

Everyday Heroes

Vape

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I don’t see myself as a connoisseur in any way of electronic cigarettes or vape boxes. To be honest, it’s really not my thing.

Some say it’s better than smoking, some say it’s just as bad. Some people. like my roommate, are in the process of using the device as a means of weaning themselves off the addictive parts of smoking traditional cigarettes; so maybe there’s some good to these devices.

But this post isn’t about the prospect of smoking in your preferred form, but rather the device itself from a semi-technical standpoint.

I had the chance, a couple times now, to pick apart a SnowWolf device and I found it was fairly simple. Take the back panel off, take out the screws and the whole thing comes apart. For how much my roommate and its fans at large seem to like it, it’s simplicity defined.

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The one negative thing I found in its design was, frankly, glaring. Like… it needs a serious retool for what seems to me to be a totally unacceptable problem. The liquid you use in the device can leak into the inner casing and cause irreparable damage (or at least damage that calls for a replacement rather than going through the trouble and cost of fixing the thing).

Interesting experience all around to poke around in one of these.

Until next time,

-M

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Vape

For Conservative Christians

This is an oversimplification of a much larger paradox involving devout Christians who happen to be politically conservative and their religious obligation to the needy that they seem to largely ignore around election time, but I think it makes a good point.

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Soured from “Conservatives Are Destroying Our Future” on Facebook.

For Conservative Christians

Spherical Video

I’m not going to even try to play it off like I understand this concept. But darn, I’m reading and I’m trying to wrap my head around the whole thing!

Basically, videos can be wrapped into spheres within the confines of two-dimensional space. I haven’t been this confused by talk of different dimensional constants since I last re-read Robert Heinlein’s Number of the Beast and he went on about four and six dimensional space for 20+ pages. Love stretching my head around this stuff.

-M

Spherical Video

Your Signature Has Changed Significantly

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It’s sad that we still have politicians who, at least on the surface, seem willing to come up with any excuse to get people not to vote. One such excuse showed itself in Lake County, Florida today as a friend of mine got a letter in the mail.

In her words, “I got this letter in the mail forcing me to re-register to vote only weeks before the registration deadline because my signature has changed significantly? No, I think it’s because I’ve signed a lot of liberal petitions and have been voting for Democrats for years. You’re not fooling anyone, Lake County.”

When it’s this clear what the intent is, I wonder who insisted these letters go out. What they don’t know is that most young, right-thinking people are capable of going and reregistering almost at once. That’s the wonder of the internet and massive information sharing. People aren’t largely left in the dark about how to go about this stuff anymore.

Though, it is nice they sent an envelope and the form necessary to fix her problem. I hope they included postage too.

Until next time,

-M

Your Signature Has Changed Significantly

State of the race in Iowa for parties

iowa-caucus-game

I figure I owe that portion of DSW’s readership which is passionate about politics a “state of the race” post since we’re only a few days out from the Iowa caucuses. Before I dive into where the candidates stand for each party, let me be clear on one thing: Early primaries, especially the ones in Iowa and New Hampshire, are completely pointless. They in fact undermine the whole point of the primary system, which is to nominate a candidate for president that is representative of their political party as a whole. It’s hard to argue that states like Iowa and New Hampshire are representative of reality in the rest of the country, for a number of reasons.

But that’s for another post, most likely immediately following the results on February 1st. For now here’s where both parties are:

On polling, the Real Clear Politics spread tells very different stories depending on which party’s primary we’re talking about. While one poll (Quinnipiac) only has him squeaking ahead in Iowa, every poll on the Republican side for almost every contest shows Donald Trump in the lead, one national poll by as many as 22 points. It’s also notable that in every one of those polls Ted Cruz takes second place and Marco Rubio takes third in the vast majority. Depending on the polls one takes a look at, it’s arguable that the contest in Iowa specifically has narrowed in the past six weeks, though far from certain.

The same spread shows a much closer contest for the Democrats. The FOX News poll pus Clinton ahead by 6, ARG puts Sanders ahead by 3. National polls show Clinton with a ten to fifteen point lead, and a comfortable lead in other primary states like South Carolina (CBS News puts her up by 22) and Minnesota, where she’s up by 34. But Sanders is dominating New Hampshire, CBS News saying he’s up by 19 there, while the Suffolk University poll has him up 9 points.

While a lot of analysis has focused on how high-stakes the Iowa caucuses are for both parties, the truth is more complex than that. The Republican challenge in Iowa is far different than the Democratic challenge.

Republicans have to decide how they want to identify themselves, and whether that particular conflict is going to be settled in a state like Iowa. Nate Silver argues that Donald Trump hasn’t been stopped by the GOP perhaps because not all of them are actually trying to win the presidential election this time around because there’s no “professional incentive” to. I think the issue is a bit simpler than that. The Republican party has for decades carefully crafted the image of the conservative commander in chief, one that acts with strength, behaves like a toned down alpha male with a folksy appeal and a blue collar aura about them, but one that is still intelligent enough on policy matters to handle themselves adeptly on the world stage and propose the occasional sweeping reform of a long-standing domestic program. They had rebuilt this image from its previous low point at the end of the Nixon administration so successfully that Bill Clinton had to all but copy it in order to get to the White House in 1992. But in 2008 they had the commander in chief image stolen from them by Barack Obama, who in addition to checking off many of the boxes the GOP thought only their candidates could, did so while maintaining an identity as a black progressive politician with a background working in marginalized communities. I cannot state enough how much Obama was able to capture that commander in chief image and completely shatter the idea it belonged more naturally with the GOP (the Palin factor helped quite a bit as well). Ever since then, without the commander in chief image to hold it together, the Republican party has returned once again to swaying back and forth between conservative extremes like a drunken Barry Goldwater stumbling in the night.

Democrats have a different question, though there are a few similarities which I hope to touch on in a different post. Having won this image battle they have almost taken the spoils from their victory too far. The Democratic primary is dominated even more than the GOP contest by a cult of personality. The two leading candidates voted the same way in the Senate (during the years they were both Senators, that is) 93 percent of the time, and yet the primary contest between them couldn’t be more divisive. The ironic part about this is that the contest centers on key personality questions (who’s most trustworthy, who has the temperament to be commander in chief, etc) but the only way to see which candidate is best in that category is to see which candidate makes the most sincere call for a return to a sane level of discourse between the campaigns and actually gets their supporters to follow them (that second part is by far the more important).

It’s possible that Iowa will end up being a more decisive contest for the Democrats than for the Republicans, but the potential is there in both parties for open and contested primaries.

-G

Image credit to The Atlantic

State of the race in Iowa for parties