Archive for November, 2019

I think I’ve refuted the Prisoner’s Dilemma!

November 29, 2019

Someone else might have already thought of this, though, although if someone else has I’ve never seen it.

I was reading this essay on morality that relies heavily on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and in the section that talks about Objectivism the fact that it would fail to settle the Prisoner’s Dilemma was a major strike against Objectivism by Adam Lee (the guy whose writing it, since I didn’t mention it before now). Anyway, my normal reply is that Objectvism adopts the idea of Enlightened Egoism precisely to defeat this purpose, as the most rational decision is not the worst case scenario where they both betray the other, but the one where they both co-operate. In doing so, something clicked for me.

Let me quickly outline the scenario. You have two prisoners, A and B. They are being interrogated by the police for a crime. They can rat out the other person or remain silent. If A and B both stay silent, they serve 1 year. If A stays silent and B confesses, A serves 3 years and B goes free. If A confesses and B stays silent, A goes free and B serves three years. If both confess, they serve 2 years. The argument is that given their positions, considered independently, they are best served by choosing to confess. If A confesses and B stays silent, A goes free, and if A confesses and B confesses, they each serve 2 years. However, if A stays silent and B stays silent, then each will service 1 year which is better than the case where both confess, but if A stays silent and B confesses then A serves three years, which is the worst option. Prudence, then, would at least get both of them to confess, but there was a better option out there for them if they had only taken it.

Again, in pondering this I realized something. This is an example of what the rational thing to do, all things considered, would be, but then states that the actual outcome works out to not be the best one possible, but that no rational argument without some sort of iteration or externalities could break the deadlock into this position. But there’s one thing that’s missing that each side should know: in at least the artificial context of the game, each person has to assume that the other person is equally informed and equally rational, and so will follow the precise same reasoning as they will. This, then, implies something amazing: there is no case where two equally informed people, who are equally rational, who are in the same situation will come up with different answers to the question. So it will never be the case that A will choose something different than B will. Thus, they will both always either choose to confess or choose to silent. It will never be the case that one of them chooses to confess while the other chooses to remain silent or vice versa. Thus, we can eliminate any of these options from consideration, as they will never actually occur in any actual scenario.

So, now we note that the purported most rational solutions, in fact, rely on the other person choosing something different than you chose. The only reason for anyone to choose to confess is the hope that the other person will stay silent and so then the person who confessed will go free. But that will never happen; if you choose to confess, so will they using the same reasoning, and vice versa.

What this means, importantly, than when considering which is the best outcome we can eliminate any cases where the choices are different and only consider the cases where the choices are the same. That leaves the choice between the case where both stay silent or both confess. In the former case, both serve 1 year. In the latter, both serve two years. Given this, staying silent is clearly the better choice and is, indeed, the one that Game Theory says is the best possible outcome given all the facts. Therefore, the Prisoner’s Dilemma is not one at all: properly reasoning fully informed and fully rational people should follow the above reasoning and conclude that they should stay silent, and both parties will, invariably, stay silent.

(The fact that it even took me this long to figure this out suggests that we aren’t actually fully rational people [grin]).

Thoughts on the Friday the 13th Movie Series (I – VIII)

November 28, 2019

I ended up being incredibly disappointed in this series overall. I didn’t go in expecting to really like it — as it wasn’t my style of horror — which should have made this more of a “I expected this disappointment” than an “I’m surprisingly disappointed in this series”, but a big part of that was the fact that I found the first movie surprisingly good, but the rest of the series never managed to recapture what made that movie good.

Putting aside that this doesn’t really appear until the sixth movie, Jason’s strongest characterization is as a supernatural unstoppable force. The problem is that his creativity is simply in how and when he kills people. He is a silent villain, which means that he can’t taunt his victims nor can be arrange elaborate and even ironic traps for them like other villains, such as Freddy from Nightmare on Elm Street. What this means is that you need some other story to follow while Jason gets into position to kill people. The first movie — and, yes, the killer there wasn’t really Jason at all — does this by not really trying to have a story, and instead to simply have people going about their normal business in-between murders. No one even discovers that people are being killed until the Final Girl discovers it while being chased by Jason. The sixth movie takes the other obvious tack, as it makes the story we are watching be all about Tommy trying to stop Jason after he inadvertently resurrects him. Both of these work really well.

The other movies in the series, however, mess this up by trying to make the story part too important. It’s a necessary component of Jason movies, but it’s not what we really care about. We aren’t going to watch a Friday the 13th movie to follow a typical teen storyline or even the awakening of supernatural powers in a teenage girl storyline. The only purpose of the story is to give us something to do while Jason isn’t killing things. The more important or detailed the story or characterizations are, the more the movie seems to be focusing on the things that we don’t care about and so seems to be distracting us from that. Moreover, if the movie places too much focus on the story since there’s nothing else to distract us during those moments and they fill up too much of the movie’s length to be ignored, we start trying to figure out the story, and so start to find plot holes. We also expect something that fills up so much time to be paid off in some way, but a number of character moments end up getting cut off — literally — by Jason, or else don’t pay off because by the end of the movie the Jason storyline is the one that needs to be focused on and resolved.

The first movie works because the moments are quickly seen as trivial and things that even the movie doesn’t want to bother with, and so really do fit in as simple distractions from Jason’s killings. The sixth movie works because it intertwines the two stories and so we always know why those story elements are being referenced, and are all paid off at the end of the movie along with the Jason storyline. For all of the others, the strength of the movie depends entirely on the strength of the story and the likability of the Final Girl. For the most part, none of the others manages to pull off anything beyond mediocre.

Also, I think this series works badly for modern audiences. Since the main horror is from the murders, most other series do those sorts of things both more creatively and with more gore. With overall mediocre stories, there’s really nothing for a modern horror fan to grab onto when watching it.

I probably won’t watch this series again. There are two really good movies in it, one okay one that I might be willing to rewatch, and a semi-interesting character in another, but that’s not going to get me through the full eight movies again.

Next up, the modern remake of the series.

Last Accomplishments Update of the year

November 27, 2019

So, again, it’s been about two months since the last one. Also, my schedule will change dramatically in December and I’m reworking my priorities and schedules on New Year’s Day, so it’s a really good time to see how things have been going.

DVDs and TV shows/movies are still the ones that work out the best. I am on track to finish Charmed by the beginning of December and switch to Babylon 5/Crusade then. I also finished Remington Steele, and have even been watching some horror movies again, finishing what I had of the Friday the 13th series and working on Nightmare On Elm Street. So it’s working fairly well.

For books, I finished “War and Peace” and am now over 400 pages into the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, having again put that aside for a bit to read some graphic novels. The pace is slow, but progress is indeed being made.

For video games, not much has happened here. I did manage to play The Old Republic again for a bit and continue my Ranathawn journal storyline, but it’s hard to find time to play when I have the interest in playing it. Still, I have some time dedicated for it in December.

Projects … well, nothing has happened here. In fact, not much has happened here for the entire year, and so this is the category that I’m the most disappointed with. I’m going to be looking to see how to make this work better on New Year’s Day.

Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica 1880

November 26, 2019

So, at the same time that I picked up “BSG vs BSG” I also picked up “Battlestar Galactica 1880”, a steampunk reinvention of Battlestar Galactica. While it was significantly shorter than “BSG vs BSG”, it was also significantly better.

The story in general works, describing the aftermath of an attack by Baltar’s Clockworks and stitching in various plots around that, from Apollo being captured, the return of Starbuck to the war, and the final fight to defeat them. It even uses Bel Iblis in a better fashion to both facilitate the rescue and to provide a final threat. The pacing is good — as the work is so short, it has to be — but still has lots to time to build in character interactions that are interesting, especially given this radically different background.

And, most importantly, the work is very good at informing us of the differences without dragging it out in needless exposition, leaving some things as mysteries until the end — why Starbuck left — while explaining things before they become important. I never felt lost in the work, but also felt that the new characterizations made sense and where the characters appeared never came across as superfluous, aside from Sheba and Cassiopeia as rival pirate queens both chasing Starbuck, and even those scenes were short and more often used to advance Starbuck’s character than as cameos from those characters.

Overall, it was a good work, much better than “BSG vs BSG” and a good example of how to do an alternate universe well.

Is Anyone Actually Chaotic Evil?

November 25, 2019

The next essay in “Dungeons & Dragons and Philosophy” is “Is Anyone Actually Chaotic Evil?” by Neil Mussett. There’s a lot of good stuff in this essay to comment on, but I think I’m going to focus here on a question that I had never really thought of before and is relevant to both Richard Carrier’s Goal Theory and my my ongoing discussions of morality with Coel: how do we get a view of morality that has a satisfying response to the question of why some people willingly choose to do or be evil?

This issue follows on from one of the big stumbling blocks Coel has with objective morality or, rather, with pretty much any kind of normativity wrt morality: what would motivate someone to actually be good as opposed to being evil? So most moral systems build in the idea that the good is that which is truly satisfying and then denigrate the more evil or base pleasures or values to show that every rational person would therefore always choose the good if they were fully informed and able to compensate for all of their weaknesses. But this, then, makes good too strong. No one should ever choose the evil if this is the case. At a minimum they would have to be irrational, and some — like Carrier — even go so far as to claim that they would have to be insane to choose the evil over the good. But the fact remains that it seems to be a struggle for most people to be consistently good. Moreover, we can conceive of someone who consistently chooses to do evil and tries to justify it with rational arguments, arguments that aren’t clearly or obviously factually wrong. But if being good is what gives us a truly satisfying life, then anyone who chooses evil is obviously wrong. So how could anyone choose evil?

Mussett surveys Plato/Socrates, Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, von Hildebrand and Arendt on the issue, with limited success. But I think at least the start of a way out of this is to note the shift that starts to happen as we move from Aristotle to Aquinas (and, to be fair, it’s present in Aristotle as well), which is a move away from an insistence that the good life just is the one that’s the most satisfying for humans and towards that idea that it’s the one that humans should find satisfying. We should find the good more satisfying for Aquinas even if we don’t really find it that way because we would owe it to God. We should find duty more satisfying as per Kant. Especially in Kant, attempts to show how being good can satisfy us are more attempts to show that living a morally good life won’t leave us totally miserable than to show that it’s the best life possible. We can be satisfied with the morally good life, and won’t be left in abject misery by doing so, and additional arguments are raised to show that that sort of life is the proper or best one for us, even if we don’t find it the most naturally satisfying one.

I can see this division in at least the Roman Stoics as well, with the idea of the indifferents. It can look like the Stoics argue for the “most satisfying” view of morality, as they use the term eudaimonia and argue that the good are the only things that really have value. But it is fundamental to the Stoic morality that we are to choose to be satisfied with acting according to the virtues no matter what happens to us because of that. The Stoics are one of the few moral systems that accept that we might well end up having what cold be considered to be a miserable life doing so: we could be starving, sick, injured, alone, poor or suffer from any number of similar ills. However, we are supposed to understand that those things are all indifferents and so while we may not be happy with that state of affairs we should be satisfied with what fate has given us and console ourselves with the fact that we are virtuous people. In fact, one of the main reasons why we should consider the indifferents indifferent is that we can’t control which of them we get, while we do have control over our own impressions and those are the ones that produce true virtue … or vice.

So, can someone willingly choose evil? Well, one way would be for them to not realize that the virtues are the things that truly have value, but this again leaves them coming across as irrational or uninformed. Another way is to have a failure of will, but while the Stoics obviously recognize that this is the case this is still a case of irrationality. However, for the Stoics it is true that acting virtuously requires a lot of work and often a sacrifice of those base desires and pleasures. Someone could rationally decide that they are unwilling to do the work to achieve satisfaction virtuously and that they aren’t willing to give up the indifferents to achieve that. The Stoics would have to admit that this temptation would always be there. But would this be a rational position? The Stoics argue that the virtuous life is the rational one, but they mean that in the sense of simply living in full accordance with reason, while the irrationality we are concerned about is the irrationality of them making an obvious error that they can correct. Can someone agree with the Stoics that the good is that which has the most value and yet argue that, at least for them, the effort required to achieve those things of real value isn’t worth what they’d pay? That the sacrifices they’d have to make are too great for what they’d receive from the true virtues? I think that they could. The Stoics would think that they are wrong, of course, but it does seem like they’d have an argument, but one that denigrates the struggle to be good, not the good itself, and so it isn’t a disagreement over what it means to be good or the process for being good, but instead simply a disagreement over whether being good is worth it.

Still, this is a tough question that doesn’t get a lot of focus. We all wonder what could motivate being good, but having done that rarely stop to think if that leaves any possible reason for someone to be evil. But if only the irrational or insane could ever be evil, then isn’t that making morality too strong, something that we should all simply follow? And since most of those moralities end up justifying it by appealing to us having the ideally satisfying life, are we merely rationalizing our moral code to be the one that simply allows us to satisfy our desires instead of having us subordinate those to what is truly good?

Leafs in the Fall …

November 22, 2019

Let me do something that I don’t do all that often — outside of playoff series predictions — and talk about a sport other than curling. There are multiple reasons for this. First, I had originally planned to continue talking about Richard Carrier’s post on Goal Theory that I started here but the next section is incredibly long. I’ve also run into a number of things that have taken up time and so find myself the day before the post is supposed to go up trying to find the time to write about something. There is something smaller that I thought about writing about but it fits better on Mondays and is something that I can’t write at work while waiting for my system to finish installing again because of incompatibility issues so that I can prove that something works that I proved worked two months ago but the people who I need to prove it works to didn’t bother loading it then but are now doing so when they have something like two days before things are supposed to be completed (but I’m not bitter).

Oh, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are collapsing in a dramatic and interesting way which it would be worth my commenting on, especially since they just fired superstar coach Mike Babcock and brought in the guy that the GM has always wanted.

Now, let me wax nostalgic a bit about my experience with and feelings for the Maple Leafs. When I was growing up there weren’t all that many hockey teams in Canada. The Oilers, Flames and Canucks were newbies with the Jets following on a bit later, and so the two big teams in Canada were the Leafs and the Canadians (or Canadiens, depending on whether you took the English or French translations). And since those teams were huge rivals, you could pretty much only like one or the other. Since I lived in Ontario, by default I became a Leaf fan. But then the Ottawa Senators entered the league, and geography dictated that I become their fan. Also, they clashed nastily with the Leafs when they started having early success … against almost any team but the Leafs. And at the time, the team had a lot of players that were easy to dislike. So I started disliking the Leafs, and since the Canadians at the time brought in a lot of former Senators I started liking them more than the Leafs. So for a while I disliked the Leafs and was happy when they lost. This has faded a bit since they’ve gotten players that aren’t as annoying, but I still fairly often feel a bit of satisfaction when they don’t do so well, mostly because they get a lot of attention in Canadian media and I hate pretty much anyone who gets that. It’s no coincidence that I started warming to the Canadians after long-time booster Dick Irvin Jr. stopped doing so many broadcasts.

So, anyway, onto their issues. They’re having a bad season. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. At the beginning of the season, many picked them to contend for the Stanley Cup, while, for example, everyone picked the Ottawa Senators to make an excellent run at winning the lottery for the first overall draft pick by finishing last in the entire league. So, as of the day I write this (Thursday), if the Senators win their game in hand they would actually be ahead of the Leafs in the standings. In fact, if all the teams below them in the standings won all their games in hand the Leafs would be second or third worst in the conference. They are currently outside of the division playoff spots and out of the wild card spots, and again the teams below and ahead of them have games in hand. That’s not where they expected to be at this point of the season, but it is amazingly consistent with their record over the past calendar year. This is not what they want to be, but this might well be what they are.

And so, they decided to fire the coach, Mike Babcock, who was brought in in 2015 to an incredibly rich contract and much fanfare, and to be fair did manage to get the Leafs to the playoffs when they had had much trouble doing that before he arrived. However, he never managed to get past the first round, which is obviously going to be disappointing for a team that hasn’t won the Cup in 51 years. Also, he wasn’t the choice of the new GM Kyle Dubas, but of the previous group, which can be an issue but didn’t have to be … except that Sheldon Keefe was a favourite of the GM and was in the system waiting in the wings. And, oh look, Keefe is Babcock’s replacement. Surprising, that.

Anyway, at first I had thought that Babcock had definitely had to go, and I still think that way, but now I’m a little less inclined to blame it all on him. The reason I think he had to go was because he was clearly not on the same page as the GM and wasn’t very shy about expressing that. He often made almost passive-aggressive comments calling out Dubas for not giving him what he wanted or needed. The worst, though, was this very pre-season when Dubas, dealing with a team that was tight up against the salary cap and so needed to pick up some pieces for bargain prices, made what seemed like a decent deal in signing Jason Spezza to a one-year contract. This seemed pretty good, as Spezza was a seasoned veteran, willing to play cheap to redeem himself and/or play near home, willing to play a third or fourth line role and, while having slowed a bit due to age, still had some offensive talent and so if an injury happened to one of their top two centres he at least could fill in there or on the power play to provide some offense. But even in the pre-season, before Spezza even got to play, Babcock seemed down on the deal and down on the player. And he kept Spezza as a healthy scratch a lot, a decision that only looks even worse since Spezza has been one of their better players lately. Babcock might have had reasons to want or to prefer other players to him, which is fine … but he seemed to be openly challenging Dubas on this decision, and that wasn’t going to last for long.

Now, I was wondering if Babcock was just using his superstar status to push Dubas around a bit, figuring that the powers-that-be would choose him over the newcomer. However, if Keefe was always in the wings, then maybe Babcock’s plays were done to force the confrontation instead of just his trying to get his own way. In any case, there did seem to be a lot of internal politicking going on that had to be resolved by either Babcock or Dubas leaving. Or possibly both.

That being said, from a player personnel standpoint the Leafs are not in good shape, although I’m not sure how much of that falls on Dubas rather than on the management team as a whole. Dubas did seem to make a mistake in the trade that brought Barrie to Toronto for Nazem Kadri, but the thing is Kadri, while definitely a serviceable and cost-effective player, probably had to go even if Toronto didn’t have cap issues. Kadri had been suspended in the past two playoff runs and arguably both times that suspension had a hand in them losing those series. He was made redundant as a good second line centre relegated to the third line role behind their two superstar centres (more on that in a minute). And other teams would be willing to take a chance on him and so he was marketable. Dubas may not have made a good trade, but trading Kadri was itself a decent move.

No, the big problems start from one of those superstar centres and that signing: John Tavares. I’m not going to say that he isn’t a good enough player to command the contract they gave him. He probably is, and if the Leafs hadn’t given it to him someone else would have. I’m also not going to say that he isn’t living up to the contract, because he probably is or, at least, is close enough that we’d want to wait and see how the rest of it plays out. No, the problem with the signing was that he was a player the Leafs didn’t need. Many people at the time compared the situation to Crosby and Malkin in Pittsburgh and talked about all the success they had, but the truth is that Toronto already had their two superstar salaries in the system: Austen Matthews and Mitch Marner, the equivalent to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. They also had a perfectly good second line centre in Kadri. Where they needed improvement was on defense mostly. Spending that much money on John Tavares meant that they were going to have three superstar-salary players on their team, in a world where there is a salary cap that they’ve run up against. Dubas did show some wizardry at getting the team under the cap, but they have no room to change things if things don’t work out and arguably didn’t actually fix their problems with what they did this summer.

You can gripe about Matthews’ and Marner’s contracts, but those ones were expected. However, they probably also overpaid for William Nylander, who is another big contract on the team, leaving them with three massive contracts and one pretty hefty one as well. I keep seeing that they are spending almost half their cap on four players, and Nylander is usually included in that one. To have it even come close to paying off, he has to be their fourth best superstar-calibre player, and he may not be there yet. When he held out, it might have been worth trading his rights to shore up the defense or other areas, especially since Kapanen played relatively well when Nylander was holding out (and took a more modest deal to stay). Dubas had said that he could keep all his players and that he would, but that was a ridiculous thing to say and getting Nylander back didn’t help them much last year. I’m not knocking Nylander as a player, but he was always going to be their fourth best forward at absolute best, and when your first three are getting paid superstar bucks you probably can’t afford to pay that much for your fourth best forward.

But again, it’s hard to say how much of that is Dubas’ fault and how much is the management team, including Brendan Shanahan, looking to make the big splash and not risk looking foolish for not being able to do so.

It’s possible that Keefe will get the team playing a run-and-gun offensive style that might work. At least he might be faster to change things up if they aren’t working than Babcock seemed to. At the end of the day, though, due to the salary cap issues the Leafs are not a deep team now and are unlikely to be a deep time any time in the near future, and so injuries like they’ve experience this year and are likely to experience in the playoffs may well sink them. And that’s even assuming that the top-heavy offensive style they seem to be built for can even work in the playoffs.

The Leafs are going through a bad time right now … but it’s pretty much all their own doing.

Thoughts on “Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan”

November 21, 2019

The last of the “Friday the 13th” movies that came in that pack I had found is Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. For the most part, so far these movies have been a bit disappointing, so how is this movie going to work for me?

Like most of the other movies, it builds itself around a separate plot with Jason being at least mostly in the background. This hasn’t really worked out for those movies, especially the previous one in the series. So far, the best movies have been when the plot has been perfunctory (the first movie) or when the plot ties directly into stopping Jason (Part VI). Here, it’s one of the better attempts. For the most part, the plot of the main female protagonist is unrelated to Jason, informs her relationship with her uncle (who is her guardian after her parents died) and her relationship with her favourite teacher, provides her with a strong fear of water that matters since most of the movie takes place on a boat traveling to New York, and allows us to see the personalities of herself and her uncle which matters when we discover just why she has such a strong fear of water. The reason — spoiler alert — is that while she was staying at her uncle’s place before her parents died he — being a rather jerky, “tough love” type of person — decided to force her to learn to swim by tossing her in at some point. That would be traumatic enough, but he had told her the story of Jason just beforehand and seemingly he tried to drown her at that point (the child Jason, not the supernatural Jason). Of course, that link seems rather tacked on and causes confusions since at times Jason seems to want to kill her and at times it seems like he doesn’t, and so there’s no real link between that first event and what happens in this movie. Still, it works to make the main heroine sympathetic, and really does work to characterize the uncle well: he’s a jerk, but also somewhat well-meaning in his jerkiness.

The biggest disappointment of the movie is that the premise of Jason being in Manhattan is only realized at the very end of the movie, while most of it is spent doing fairly standard slashing on the boat heading to New York. There are a couple of side plots — the main male protagonist wanting and failing to follow in his father’s footsteps, the head mean girl and her machinations — and for the most part they provide a few character moments without getting in the way of the plot, but they all happen on the boat. The most interesting idea was the new idea of Jason having to perform his killings in an urban area, and how that would all work out. But again they arrive late and even then are in a rather isolated part of the city for the most part, so we don’t really get to see how Jason would have had to operate in such a big city.

The movie does throw in some gags — comparing Jason’s face to that of a hockey goalie on a billboard, a scene with a boxer who, at the end, loses his head — but for the most part it’s still fairly serious. Or at least as serious as such a movie can be.

Ultimately, this movie is okay. There’s nothing great about it but it isn’t as terrible or boring or confusing as some of the others. I could probably watch it again, but the rest of the series doesn’t incline me to do so.

Reacting …

November 20, 2019

So, I’m still occasionally watching chess games while compiling and installing and the like. And another thing that I’ve noticed is how important it is to keep your opponent reacting to what you’re doing and not allow them to force you to react to what they’re doing. So putting their king in check is an obvious one, but even targeting pieces again forces them to make decisions and to make a move in response to what you’re doing. This stops them from targeting your pieces and implementing their own strategy. Of course, there will always be times when you need to stop and make a set-up move, but these are probably the most risky moves in the game, especially once you’re in the mid- or end-game, and even if you’re dominating the game at that point giving them a move where they don’t need to immediately react to you gives them a chance to grab the momentum by forcing you to react to them.

Or, even, a chance to win the game. In the last game of my undefeated tournament run (and, yes, I’m going to milk this for content in my chess posts because it’s the most meaningful chess event I’ve had in my life), my opponent was pressing me hard at the end of the game. I had a queen and maybe a couple of pawns, and he had a queen, something else, and then at least three more pawns because his king was buried behind them after an early castling attempt. I kept defending like crazy but never interspersing my queen, because my queen was in a position to pin his king behind that block and ultimately win the game. I was hanging on and hanging on and hoping that he’d give me just one move free to win the game. Eventually, he did … much to the chagrin of his teammate right beside us who was hoping that his teammate would beat me so that he would end up in a tie with me for top spot if he beat my teammate.

It may seem like there’s no room for momentum in chess, but there is. Or, at least, for the notion of momentum as a chain of forcing your opponent to react to your moves and having no real ability to implement a strategy that you need to react to.

Thoughts on “BSG vs BSG”

November 19, 2019

So, while again browsing in the local comic/board game store, I came across “BSG vs BSG” written by Peter David, which crosses over the original Battlestar Galactica with the revamped Battlestar Galactica. Seeing that premise, I really had to buy it. I’ve always far preferred the original to the reboot, but seeing the two of them contrasted with each other was irresistible.

However, storywise it’s a bit of a disappointment. The reason is that the work seems to be far more interested in packing in as many references as it possibly can instead of telling a story that allows for those references. For example, the two Baltars meet each other in a scene that’s pretty much completely irrelevant to anything that was actually going on in the plot. Pretty much every combination of character that you’d want to see is mentioned — they even have a small subplot built out of Apollo from the original series and Tom Zarek from the reboot being played by the same actor — but in doing so we end up with a plot that’s haphazard and uninteresting without a really satisfying conclusion.

Still, the references are interesting, capture the ones we’d want to see, and often really capture the difference in the series. An example is the meeting of the two Starbucks. Of course they play cards together and of course they have sex, which leads to a great line from the original Starbuck of “Well, if anyone tells me to go frak myself, I can tell them I did and it was great”. And then leads to a line that really does capture the difference between the two characters — and why I didn’t care for the reboot’s Starbuck — where she comments “Yes I was”, which captures her far more self-centered attitude. Of course, this is also during a time when she was married to Anders, and he discovers them together, and the original Starbuck is outraged that she didn’t tell him because he doesn’t have sex with married women, which she replies to with a flippant “Well, you can cross that one off your list”. The original Starbuck is the rogue with the heart of gold, while the reboot Starbuck is just an amoral, self-centered person. The original Starbuck breaks the rules mostly because he thinks they don’t matter, but the reboot Starbuck breaks them just because it benefits her to do so (with a hint of self-loathing at the end of the scene that could just be a lie). This whole sequence, with the original Starbuck apologizing to and commiserating with Anders at the end, neatly encapsulates the differences in the characters and the shows.

The book is nice for the references, but as stated the plot left me a little cold. As such, it’s an okay crossover but not as good as it could be.

Priorities …

November 18, 2019

Schedules are good for me because they let me have things to do when I have free time. But they’re also good for me because they help me to set priorities in those time blocks as well … a point that I’m becoming rather aware of with my new sporadic free time.

See, when I have unscheduled free time, I always have two things to think about. One is, of course, what I have time to do. And the other is what it would be best for me to do right now. The second is where prioritization comes in, but it’s more complicated than just taking the thing that’s on the top of my priority list that I have time to do. Sure, that’s one approach, but it doesn’t take into account all sorts of other factors that determine what the best thing to do is.

So, take these last few weeks where work has been a bit unpredictable but where I’ve certainly had more time than usual, but where I’m also building towards heading off on vacation for quite some time. The top things on my priority list — the things I most want to do — are projects, chess, and things like that. But for projects, that’s what I’m supposed to spend most of my time doing when I’m off, and chess is something that I have to figure out if I want it on my schedule after New Year’s Day. Is it the best use of my time to do those? As another consideration, I still have a lot of horror movies to get through, and also know that I won’t have time to get through them when I’m on vacation because the times where I could be watching them I’ll be finishing Charmed and watching Babylon 5. I do want to do those, and so where does that fit in here?

So my decision was to focus more in the evenings and in my free time on watching some of those horror movies, with the goal of getting through the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street series before my vacation. That seems to be the best thing to do right now, and it’s working fairly well.

Schedules do that over the long haul, filling in a day with things that are lower priority but, nevertheless, letting me get things done and so feel that things are coming off my list. Which is important for someone who’s been on an accomplishment kick for the past several months …