Passive Aggressive Phase

Blaming Obama for the Blood Moon

So apparently god is pretty pissed at Obama for something or other.

How does he handle this situation? Does he say “I shall communicate to my creations in clear and unmistakable terms that they risk incurring my righteous fury should they continue down this path”?

“No!” booms the unfathomable voice of the almighty. “Imma turn the moon orange. They’ll figure it out.”

What did Jessica Do this weekend?

Remained sick. For the third week. My first thought upon waking Sunday morning was that I should not be awake. So Sunday was mainly sleeping, punctuated by Pikmin and A Link to the Past.

Went to a goth music dj night/30th birthday party for a friend of mine. Fog machines and led hula hoops and Sisters of Mercy. Also there was a public screening of Caligula at the bar. Darkwave and Roman orgies seem to sync up really well. I understand that Ninja Scroll also played that evening, but I missed that because the super-flu inhabiting my body strongly suggested I shuffle it back to my nest on the couch.

Learned the difference between Roddy McDowall and Malcolm McDowell.

Beat Reaper of Souls.

Showed my mom the different kinds of image manipulations you can do with Photoshop. This seemed to blow her mind a little bit, as paint has been her goto on the computer whenever she feels up to using it. I try introducing different things she might find interesting – movies, music, art, news – so it’s always nice when something grabs her attention to the point where she is motivated to ask for more information about it.

Made some pretty badass french toast. The secret is nutmeg.

Perl password masking in Linux

Most solutions for this seem to point you to Term::ReadKey, which looks something like this:
ReadMode( noecho => STDIN );
my $pass = <STDIN>;
ReadMode( restore => STDIN );

However, I did not have that module on my servers, and the Linux admins get fussy about installing new ones. Fortunately, it does not seem that great of a loss, as system calls via Perl are not really more complicated – the code to hide the password looks nearly identical, and character substitution would still require a loop. It looks like this is geared towards making scripts more portable.

Anyway, here is some code.

Method 1 : Turns off echo so you don’t see anything as it is typed.
system("stty -echo");
$pass=<STDIN>;
chomp($pass);
system("stty echo");

Method 2 : Turns off echo and buffering. This lets you read one character at a time and write an asterisk instead of echoing the character to the terminal. To get the full password, you just concatenate the characters as they are read in. In this case, you check for the end of input using ord() – you are looking for something like CR or LF, but really anything below ascii 32 should not be in a password.
system ("stty -echo -icanon");
while (sysread STDIN, $a, 1) {
if (ord($a) < 32) { last; } $pass .= $a; syswrite STDOUT, "*", 1; } system ("stty echo icanon");

http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-questions/2005-August/095047.html
http://www.perlmonks.org/?node_id=163606

I don’t have all day to feel good.

Sometimes I read something that provokes the “Yes, THIS. This exactly.” response.

Today’s example: This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense

For the record, this is not about removing accountability from people. People must know the consequences of their actions, if for no other reason than feedback makes it possible to learn from a mistake. Experiencing the fallout of a bad decision is part of what helps me grow as a person – to be less selfish, and better able to deal with less than ideal conditions. Indeed, some people cannot cope with what most would consider mild stressors because they have never been permitted to own the responsibility for or consequences of their actions.

However, I also can’t learn from my mistakes if I have no time to mentally regroup and reflect. And what good is it to learn from my mistakes if I can see no other options? I think we cling so hard to this notion of “deserve”, because it makes us feel more comfortable when confronted with the suffering of another person.

Excessive stress makes it harder to make good decisions.
Under stress, I might make decisions which benefit me, but negatively impact everyone else. In this case, people might assume that I am not a very good person. Under stress, I might make decisions that are good for me in the moment, but extremely detrimental to me in the long run. In this case, people might assume that I am not a very smart person. Neither of these things is necessarily true. A person that is under extreme stress often cannot connect their actions to impact. They are overloaded with things constantly pulling their attention to the present moment.

The brain is a machine with limited resources.
The resources in your brain are limited, but also very flexible. In a given time period, you can use those resources to think about a few things deeply, or many more things shallowly.

In times of low stress, most of your resources are available to think through individual actions, and understand the long-reaching impact of your decisions. You can think about a candidate solution to a problem, consider how thoroughly it solves the problem and then consider the potential side-effects of that solution. Having considered the side effects, you can make a judgement call as to whether or not the consequences are acceptable. You can double check for another solution. If there are no better solutions, you can make a plan for how to handle the negative consequences. You can prepare.

In times of extreme stress – when you have many immediate things that are pressing for your attention with the same effective urgency – your brain draws back from its focused approach and begins a more breadth oriented approach. You alleviate the most pressing problems in the way that most immediately presents itself. Since you know that there are maybe a dozen other things that must be dealt with now, you can probably only account for obvious, short term consequences. You can’t really consider the consequences of any one action more than a couple of steps out, because you have already started reacting to the next thing that is happening now.

The brain is a machine that prioritizes based on immediacy.
The brain wants to deal with now first. It would actually prefer to only ever deal with now, but it contains a sophisticated modeling system called the imagination that generates “what if?” scenarios. Under ideal circumstances, this allows us to examine in detail every decision’s potential outcome before taking any action.

The main problem with this is that it only works when you don’t have something of a higher perceived immediacy to deal with.

For example, suppose you need to conserve water for some reason. You start making a schedule for how much you can use per day for what purpose. You feel a little thirsty, but you just had a ration, so you know you are fine and you do not act on the impulse to drink. You are very disciplined – right up until the point you notice your hands are on fire. In this case, your brain starts checking over its prioritization rules and sending the message “I know we don’t want to die of thirst, but it also seems kind of important to not be on fire. Executive decision time.” And before you even realize what you are doing, you have upended a container of precious potable fluid onto your now steaming meat stumps.

The brain does not like to go looking for trouble.
If I have found an action that reduces my stress now, and that action does not present any obvious problems, my brain is going to react like the lazy asshole it is, and say “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop. Right. There. We got the solution, why are you still mulling this over? If you keep thinking about this, then we have to . . . keep thinking about this. You are trying to figure out how your actions will impact tomorrow? What is that even? Is it code for ‘not my fucking problem’? Because that’s what it sounds like from in here.”

Your brain means well. It just wants to protect you. Only you. Specifically, only what it understands as you – and until it understands different, all that means is you, in your current state, right at this moment. Not the world. Not your family. Not your immediate surroundings. Not your future. You.

But if your brain can’t be bothered to look two goddamn minutes into the future for the sake of your continued well-being, what is it actually protecting?

It all comes down to feelings.
Strictly speaking, what your brain is protecting is your sense of well-being. Which is to say, how you feel about your situation, rather than the reality of it. Ideally, the two would be in sync, but for most of us, most of the time, it is not.

Why does it work this way? Because sometimes reality leaves you not feeling so good, and your brain is trying to maintain at least a balance between good and bad feelings. It is trying to reconcile all the data it has stored up in such a way that you are left feeling as good as possible. It likes pointing you to simple pleasures whenever it can – those go-to, low effort actions that promise to give a brief but certain good feeling. They don’t require work or stress or patience or any of that not-feeling-good bullshit that you are trying to get out from under. Simple pleasures get the job done.

Your brain can be convinced to put off feeling good for a little while – so long as it con be reasonably confident of a payoff, and isn’t made to feel too bad in the interim. But as soon as things start going south, it retreats back to the safety of what it knows and files the whole “delayed gratification” notion under “things which are probably bullshit”.

As your stress level rises – as the problems pile on and you become more and more uncertain as to what you need to do to fix them (or even what should be addressed first), you become less able to cope with any one thing. Those quick fixes become crucial – a last ditch coping strategy.

The problem with this though, is that those simple pleasures can become a crutch, and you may get locked into behavior that is ultimately detrimental over the long term. You get used to it. Which makes it hurt all the more when someone tries to take it away from you by indicating that you should stop. This is why I think it is so important to at least offer understanding. Which is not to say that you need to tell them that everything they are doing is fine and they have no reason to change. It can be as simple as letting them vent without immediately leaping to judge. Humans derive a degree of benefit from the knowledge that someone cares about their situation – that they are not simply disappearing.

This won’t necessarily work for everyone or every situation, I am fully aware of that. But it does seem a little more constructive than simply tossing out “It’s your own fault.” Honestly, I can’t believe that’s ever intended to do more than bolster the ego of the person saying it.

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/jadmus.pdf
http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/05/decision-making-under-stress-the-brain-remembers-rewards-forgets-punishments/
http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2013/10/stress-and-decision-making-avoid-expensive-mistakes#.UpN8B8SkqJk

We are full of secrets.

Not exactly current events, but I just got around to reading it.

Writer Cormac McCarthy’s ex-wife arrested after pulling pistol from vagina and threatening boyfriend

This incident highlights the root cause of all misogyny. Women have a secret pocket that men do not have, and you never know what we might pull out of there. Sometimes it’s just a small human. Sometimes it’s black tar heroin. Every once in a while it will be a firearm that gets pointed at you because you failed to respect our opinion on space aliens.

That is why we have to be ashamed of our vaginae.

Kirby

John picked this up last week: Kirby’s Dream Collection. I had never actually played a Kirby game, a fact which earned me reproachful looks and disbelief when revealed. Apparently Kirby is kind of significant in the Nintendo pantheon, owing obeisance only to the likes of Mario and Link.

Last night I finished Kirby’s Dreamland and started Kirby’s Adventure. You play as Kirby, who is . . . a Kirby. Seriously, that is the best answer I could get out of anyone whom I queried about the game. You are Kirby the Kirby, your home is Dreamland and your superpower is eating. And sometimes just swallowing things whole and then projectile vomiting them at your enemies. But it’s not as gross as it sounds, because Kirbys apparently vomit stars. Also if you just swallow a whole bunch of air, you can fly. If need be, you can even spit air as an attack.

Kirbys love to eat. Their bodies are designed to do little more than eat. They are creatures that are pretty much all mouth and stomach1, with only vestigial limbs. Kirbys love nothing more than sitting around all goddamn day swallowing whatever rolls into their faces, pausing only for the occasional regurgitation. Presumably they live in a land of natural bounty or have some sort of agricultural industry in place that allows for this.

Kirby is an all-consuming entity that dwells in the dreaming.

Kirby is an all-consuming entity that dwells in the dreaming.


So the Kirby nation exists peacefully in this endless convivium, and for a time, all is good. Then this fuck, King Dedede comes along and ruins the party for everyone by stealing all the food to enjoy in one massive banquet. The Kirbys, all bloated from decadence and rolling around in pools of their own sick stars, are powerless to stop him.

I didn’t really have a problem with any of this. Everybody in this story is disgusting, and nobody deserves any help. However, they do manage to find one Kirby that is still sort of mobile, so they charge him with waddling up the mountain to go deal with this asshole.

From there on nothing in the game makes any sense, which makes it a fairly standard platformer. Loads of bizarre enemies roaming about (subjects of King Dedede, one would assume) for you to consume. Each of the themed levels are super colorful (and seem very reminiscent of Super Mario 3 – something about the shape/color of the hills in the background, I think). The music is aggressively cheerful and energetic, and the character design is kawaii enough to keep you from thinking overmuch about the horrifying nature of the race you are attempting to save2.

In my opinion, the fight with King Dedede was non-intuitive. You cannot inhale him and he produces no minions to use as ammo. I thought maybe you could grab his hammer. At one point, I was even taking gulps of air and essentially spitting into his mouth when he tried to swallow me. I suspected that was probably not what the game designer intended, so I asked the internet. You have to inhale and spit the stars produced when he tries to jump on you. I guess I should have realized this, as everything Kirby vomits at his enemies turns into stars.

John made a point of mentioning this while I was playing, so it seems worthwhile to note – The Wii U has emulators for pretty much all the old Nintendo hardware, including the Wii. Kirby’s Dream Collection is technically a Wii title, so from the Wii U, I had to run the Wii emulator. From within the Wii emulator, the software runs on the emulators for whichever system the title was originally release. Additionally, all the emulators are designed to be exact replications of those systems, including the places where the system would slow a bit due to overload on the hardware. So you are actually experiencing it in the same way as you would had you played it on the original system.

1Possibly they do not even have stomachs. I suppose it could be feasible to absorb nutrients directly into the lining of the mouth. Maybe you wouldn’t get much for each meal, making constant consumption a more reasonable proposition.
2Unless King Dedede was actually just taking the food to save them from themselves. In which case, you are an unwitting agent of their doom.

So I guess I am preoccupied with physical and dental health. And possibly awkward social encounters.

I had this dream recently where I had decided to go jogging while brushing my teeth. Or for some reason I had to run out of my house while brushing my teeth, and figured fuck it, might as well go jogging.

I jog for some time before heading into this Asian grocery store to buy some canned coffee. While selecting my can of coffee, I have the feeling there is someone I do not want to run into also in the store. I turn to see this person (or persons) standing at the counter, talking to the cashier. Seeing an opportunity to slink away undetected, I edge around the cooler and out the door.

I am still brushing my teeth.

I continue jogging around campus. A light drizzle begins, so I start ducking into buildings where I can. I am now running from building to building, including residential halls. All of these are quite old victorian style buildings with whimsical floor plans. Some of them are connected by tunnels or enclosed bridges. I jog past people studying in common rooms, eating meals, having sex, playing video games. I startle a number of people. I am also still brushing my teeth.

I consider that maybe I shouldn’t be invading people’s personal space like that, so I head back outside. At this point I say to myself “I have been brushing my teeth for a very long time. I bet this brush is kinda fucked by now.” I take it out of my mouth to inspect it, and see that the bristles are falling out. I examine it for some time, then set it down on the sidewalk, as if to commemorate the place where the tooth brushing stopped. I think I just went home after that.

Sometimes my dreams have punchlines.

In my dream, I am sitting on my couch playing Pikmin. I notice that something seems off with some of them. They have stopped working, and are just gathering to stare out at me.


pinkmin00_web

They look kind of angry.

I try to zoom in to get a better look at them, but that isn’t working. So I get up and walk over to the television to peer into the screen. At some point I notice that I have stepped into the game. Upon realizing this, I turn to one of the three astronaut characters, nod approvingly and say “That is a very useful feature.”

I walk toward a smaller group.


pinkmin01

I still don’t really understand what’s happening, so I turn to the astronaut again. No help.

Suddenly one of the Pikmin marches directly up to me so I can see it clearly.


pinkmin02

Finally it clicks, and I say “Oooohh. Ok, I get it. Pinkmin.”

Paeprs, pls.

This is Papers, Please. I have sunk a decent amount of time into this game.

This game is really amazingly good. I attribute this in part to the very satisfying sound effects associated with the actions you perform. Your every action has this sort of heavy finality to it. You stamp of judgement comes down hard with the weight of your authority. You communicate with travelers by growling instructions into a loudspeaker. Even when you are flipping through you handbook or passing someone a fingerprint sheet, the turn of each page sounds very deliberate and methodical. As though your intent were to proceed at as frustrating a pace as possible – making sure the applicants are aware, that you are aware that you are doing it.

The there’s the “Detain” buzzer, which is somewhat less aurally commanding. Just a very calm, quick buzz that says “Guards, please escort this sketchy motherfucker to one of the back rooms to discuss the discrepancies in his paperwork.”

I read a couple of articles1 that talked about how impressed they were by the moral dimension of the game – whether you will choose to show compassion to people who don’t have their papers in order, accept bribes, help assassins, etc.

I have no such moral quandaries. I play this game for cathartic reasons. This game is very like my job. Users want something, don’t have their requirements in order to get it, act surprised to hear what the requirements are, ask when that was implemented. I don’t get to detain shit at work, so this is my little treat at the end of the day.

I am the perfect government drone because I hate everyone that approaches my checkpoint. I find their pleas for mercy and understanding intensely irritating. Also grounds for suspicion.

Oh, you need to get into country to reunite with your husband? Because honestly that sounds a lot like something someone planning to blow up a building would say.

Oh, you need access to an operation that is only performed in this country? Because that sounds like an excellent cover for someone looking to assassinate whoever our glorious leader is.

I assume everyone is lying, so I am never swayed from procedure2.

My family is so cold.


1http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/08/23/papers_please_serious_video_game_raises_tricky_moral_questions.html
http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2013/11/10/244413539/papers-please-puts-your-loyalty-sympathy-to-the-test
2Except Jorji, who I know is clearly lying. Two body searches in, and I start thinking “Gettin real tired of looking at your balls, Jorji.” It’s less aggravation to assume that he needs whatever bulk pills packs he currently has taped to his thighs for a legitimate medical reason.