Monday, September 28, 2009

Oliver Sacks and the Human Brain

Unless you've studied psychology or psychobiology, you probably assume that the human brain is a rational operator, and even people that are crazy are basically the same as everyone else. This is an easy assumption to make, as far as most people can tell, they make decisions on a rational basis.

Unfortunately, humans are anything but rational, and deviance in brain function can be more profound than you can imagine.

Many decisions that human beings made are only explained after the fact. To test this, test subjects were given electrical impulses to force motion, or given psychological "triggers" that would provoke some physical response. After doing something inherently irrational, subjects inevitably came up with "reasons" why they did this, even though they hadn't decided to do it in the first place. Imagine how profoundly deceived humans can be when we can convince ourselves, for no reason, that we decided to do something when we were compelled to against our will.

People who suffer severe brain damage can gain a new worldview that seems impossible. Oliver Sacks, a neurobiologist, has written several books on the subject. There is a woman who has suffered brain damage that has deleted her perception of the direction "Left". Somehow, she is only able to perceive the right half of her world, only applying makeup to the right half of her face, and only eating the food on the right half of her plate. To see if there is any food on her plate she missed, she must turn nearly 360 degrees to the right to recenter the plate slightly to the left.

There are those who have suffered damage to the areas of the brain responsible for sight, and have been rendered completely blind, but still believe that they can see. Despite constant failures in their imagined "vision", they are adamant. On the other side of the coin, there are those who have suffered damage to the same general area, and lose the entire concept of sight. They cannot imagine the appearance of pictures, places, or people. The entire visual world is simply gone, as thoroughly as if they had never seen at all.

Anyway, Sack's books are interesting, so check them out if you like odd psychological problems. It's odd to see the common lack of interconnectedness in hospitals in his books. He'll find a case, assume it's unique because he's never seen it before, and write a paper, only to find out that there are dozens of cases that hadn't received much attention previously. I suppose in the world of the Internet, this information is more widespread, but if not, these things need to be on the Web. We should be treating people like this with as much information as possible.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Idling Update

I've continued to idle with more fervour since the latest update. I now have 97 items, 4 of which are hats. You can actually see people's backpacks now, mine is here. I can't imagine why you would want to see it, but it's there regardless.

The real question is what item crafting will look like. Since they gave us backpacks with 100 slots, I imagine that it will take a lot of items to craft a hat. After all, if you have a full backpack, you're probably going to have at least 5 of some item. Personally, I have about 30 Dead Ringers, and 10 KGBs. (It's funny, I like the Dead Ringer, but the instant a GRU [A delightful pun] becomes available, I'm never going to equip a KGB again.) So, if you need 10 duplicate items, it will take a little bit of focussed idling to craft a hat for most. If you need 50, less than 1% of players will be able to immediately craft a hat. If the crafting coincides with a trading system, that would make it easier; players could congregate and create piles of 50 by tactical trading. I can't imagine they'd require more than 50 items. Regardless, this still means that there's no trade you could reasonably make between hat and non-hat items. There's no reason to trade 70 items for a hat if you could just craft one with 50, and the other player wouldn't want them if they weren't easy to craft with.

My only real fear is El_dawg's prediction: that you'll only be able to make Spy hats out of Spy items, and so forth. That would be doubly disastrous: firstly, most of my items are spy, and I don't particularly want another spy hat. Secondly, this would mean that no one could craft Demo, Soldier, and Engie hats. (Really, I'm just talking about Demo hats, which are the best hats in the game. I saw a couple people riding Top Hats yesterday, they look so good.) I have the Stainless Helm, but I'd prefer a Tyrant's Helm.

PS. Best Heavy Run in my life: 44 points. I stuck with the cart the entire way across Badwater, except for a brief excursion to the roof above the second Capture Point.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sandvich Update

This latest update is a huge boost to the Sandvich. Although I can't tell exactly how much it heals now, it's way more than 300 HP. I think the real question is whether some classes are even capable of killing him while he's eating.

The ability to drop the sandvich will be a new reason to call people a noob. The same day as the update, I was dying of fire as a medic, and a Heavy casually let me die, even though he had one. After a while, people will figure this stuff out.

In some ways, all this makes Heavy the second best healing class, pulling in front of engie. This is in terms of healing points, not in keeping the team alive.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

An Open Letter To Guitar Hero

Dear Guitar Hero,

You Lost.

Rock Band is better than you. They produce a better product, and they don't release a new version every 15 minutes. They got the Lego license. They got "Tribute", they got the Portal Song.

They got The Beatles. THE BEATLES.

Just go and try something else, because you got beat.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I'm downloading Dungeons and Dragons Online as I write thins. Normally, Wizards is so bad with computer based stuff, it's not a safe bet to risk your money with it. Thankfully, DDO is priced right, at zero dollars.

One thing that hasn't sold me on the product is their shameful Succubus-based advertising campaign:

I sincerely doubt there will be a 1:1 ratio between Succubi and Dragons. Even the installer has a Succubus on it. I don't see why they're so desperate to sell me on the objectification of women at this point, I'm already downloading the thing. Are they concerned that I will realize I could just go download some pornography instead of waiting for the installation process?

Monday, September 07, 2009

TF2 Personal Log

Ever since the Classless Update, I've been pro-idling pretty thoroughly. At the moment, I have 262.5 hours of play time in the past 2 weeks, and two weeks only have 336 hours. I've earned only the Master's Yellow Belt since the Update.

Since I have no achievements to grind, I've decided to reset my stats again. You can (just barely) see my pre-reset stats here.

On the Halo, I think it's pretty good. A server set out its anti-Halo agenda with comments like, "I will not heal a Halo, I will not unsap a Halo's buildings, I will shoot a Halo first, [etc.]" The comment ended by saying that they were pretty annoyed that they lost the stuff they had "earned" while using the application that meant they could never have a Halo. I think that last bit is a big part of the key to people's animosity. People are angry that they lost their stuff, and the Halo is a reminder of that.

(Come to think of it, I wonder if there's any association with Halo the video game series.)

I think as hats become more common-place, people will be less concerned with this sort of thing.

As I type this, I'm giving my "old" stats one last hurrah: I've set up a Heavy in an idle server where the floor hurts you, and he's automatically eating a Sandvich. My plan is to literally have the Heavy eat that Sandvich all day, which should result in tens of thousands of points of healing, which will also be my high-scoring Heavy run.

There he goes!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Roomba Fun

We got a Roomba. First: it is good at cleaning, and is less noisy than a vacuum cleaner. Those are really the things that matter in such a product. It gets underneath furniture, and cleans places that we normally don't clean. Places like the Living Room, Kitchen, Family Room, Bathroom, Office, and the Bedrooms.

Supposedly, the Roomba doesn't generate a "mental map" of its area, it just uses a procedural system to clean at "semi-random". I call shenanigans. The Roomba does make a map, and it uses it to frustrate your attempts to get it to do what you want.

When we first set it up, it was next to the entryway, so it wasn't surprising that it ended up hanging out there, and seeming sort of "stuck" in the entryway. We moved it to the other side of the house, and it quickly recognized that fact. It scouted around for a minute, then quickly returned to the entryway.

Another time, I pressed the button that told it to return to its Dock, where it recharges. It promptly went to the place in the house farthest from the Dock, and only grudgingly left that room, only occasionally briefly issuing out to trick me into thinking it was going back to the Dock. To be fair, it did make it eventually.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Inglorious Bastards

I saw Inglorious Bastards. It's good. Brad Pitt is always good, and Samuel Jackson and Harvey Keitel are included, for no particular reason.


I remembered, with not prompting whatsoever, to do a Ron Perlman score.

.95/5 Ron Perlmen