Harsh Times Are Required : A World of Tanks Experience

I’ve been playing a game called World of Tanks for the past month and a half or so.

I had played it a few years back when it just came out of beta and had some fond memories of some of the tanks, but I had dropped and uninstalled it because I got fed up with the lack of power I had over the outcome of the game. The standard mode is 15 minutes, 15 vs 15 with each player in one tank, and everyone only lives once – if you lose all your health you cannot simply hop into another tank and continue. It wasn’t too hard to drop the game since I had picked it up like League of Legends for the purpose of training minimap awareness for Starcraft. This time around I picked it back up as I was invited by a friend who had another group of friends interested in doing company and clan battles, and I had Go, where I am actually in full control and anything that goes wrong is completely my fault.

Coming back there were a lot of changes; quite a few tanks I had remembered being good or at least fun to play had their best guns removed or were reworked entirely. My favorite tank felt largely unchanged but perhaps lacking a bit due to powercreep. As I had not gotten to the higher tiers / endgame of World of Tanks the new tank lines and meta changes didn’t matter to me too much, so I just played it as a new game with somewhat of a head start. At first I was performing about where I was performing historically, approximately the 47% winrate average. One of the friends was very into the numbers and statistics of the game and I learned a lot more about the mechanics, which I had ignored completely the first time around opting for a “feel first think later” approach, and I started looking at my own winrates more closely on the third-party sites that kept track of more stats than the official site, including individual tank stats and daily/weekly/monthly progress.

Learning about which tanks had which guns which did however much damage at whatever penetration, how far away they could see me based on their tank type and equipment, and how fast they could turn or move based on horsepower/tonnage ratio did not raise my winrates by much at all. It raised my daily winrates (50~100 battles/day) from a fairly stable ~47% to an unstable 49%. The two things I did learn were hull-down and sidescraping, which weren’t really about to help me since I wasn’t really yet playing at high enough tiers for these things to be crucial, or otherwise failed by themselves to have any significant statistical impact. I started reading articles written by top tier players and watching their videos and streams, and they bumped me up to a vaguely less unstable 52%. It’s hard and not very informative to compare the two jumps in a numerical way, but it felt substantial enough for me to believe that the future of improvement lay in following the footsteps of the better tankers.

Somewhere along the way I stopped playing regularly with the aforementioned group and played the game on my own. The original inviter turned out to be someone I really didn’t want to play with and for various reasons was clear he is not a person to learn from, and the rest weren’t really looking to be competitive or were unable to explain how they were improving. I had also stopped playing Go for the time being and spent time on other activities when not on WOT, so the “I’m only one man out of fifteen against fifteen, what could I possibly do” came back in full force. My winrate was still about 52%, but became a little more unstable – there were some days I’d hit 55 and other days where it’d go back to 46. I read a post about how team games don’t require teamwork, which helped a little bit more every time I read it, but it didn’t have much effect. Or so it seemed.

This past weekend was horrible, as most weekends are. Reasoning is that more bad players are out on the weekends and since WOT has no ranked games ladder where bad players only see bad players, the games were much more one-sided and the feeling of playing them ranged from “dumb” to “humans are garbage i have lost my faith in humanity”. The difference this time though was I kept trying to play and kept trying to focus. Usually I either 1) get really mad and quit or 2) get really mad and keep on playing. The former leaves me with a bad taste and a lower winrate, the latter leaves me with a worse version of the former.

This time I took no breaks inbetween games and forced myself to remember that this was a new game, with new players, sometimes on a different tank, most of the time on a different map, and even if players are still probably going to be bad because it’s the weekend, they might do something I can work with this time, and even if they don’t get better, I can get better, and that at least requires some experience in trying to apply what I’ve learned.

I forget what my winrates were, I didn’t bother to record them because they weren’t out of the ordinary. On the lower side of normal things.

This is what happened after last weekend:

Those were my numbers after Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were something like 62 and 68 respectively; I didn’t record them because I thought they were anomalies of some kind. I thought it might’ve been RNG or MM (MatchMaking) favoring me, or perhaps it was because I was playing too much of tanks I liked (T-34, tier 5; T-150, tier 6) rather than grinding through tanks I wasn’t so comfortable in towards higher tiers. But three days in and a last minute check before bed opened my eyes pretty wide.

Thursday felt pretty bad and it was something like 56 at the end of the day. Today was the worst I’ve felt in WOT for a fairly long period of time and I simply quit after a fairly short session, and I thought perhaps this whole week was just a Flowers for Algernon experience and the window of greatness had passed.

These were today’s stats:

In a 15 vs 15 game a 2% disparity in overall winrate signifies a massive difference in strength, and on what I thought was one of my worst days I performed that much better than my historical average. I was killing more than a whole nother tank per game, doing more than twice as much damage, and instead of surviving one every five games I was still surviving one out of three. It used to be an extremely good day had this 51.5% winrate with >2.0 KDR – and now it was just the opposite. On reflection, I’ve found I now basically expect to win at least 2/3 of my games, kill 3 or more opponents, and survive at least 1/2 of the time.

In this past week I have read no new articles and watched no new videos relating to World of Tanks. I have only played more games. I have been playing no tanks this week that I did not last week, and while I have been trying a few new routes this week on particular maps this is something I do all the time anyways. My strategy and style has been largely the same for the past three weeks or so. Nothing directly measurable has changed.

My mind, however, has changed.

A post written by a fairly famous player states that there are essentially three things that separate a player from being just pretty good (52~55%) and amazing (60+%, as defined by WOTLABS): Activity, Consistency, and Deliberateness. As he defines it, Activity is basically firing more and always looking for a better way to approach the local and global fight, Consistency is about doing the right thing with your tank given the matchup, and Deliberateness is the mental focus for Activity. Activity I’ve been ramping up for a while now, due to playing more slow-firing tanks but still needing to output the same damage flowrate to win/stay alive, and deliberateness is in the same line. Consistency in the form that he mentions I definitely don’t have yet since I basically only have a “light tank” and “heavy tank” mindset.

What I have gained is another kind of consistency.

After a weekend flood of playing with straight-up no-question-about-it tomatoes and being able to keep some grip on my sanity and temper, playing with weekday potatoes shot my winrate through the roof. Being forced to spend a significant amount of energy on keeping myself under control while still wanting to play for wins, I didn’t have any room in my mind for thoughts other than what I thought would bring my team the victory. No doubts or hesitation, only correct moves or mistakes based on what I had understood from my studies and what I thought would be the correct move at the time. If I made the correct move, great. If not, reflect a bit on what went wrong and what could’ve been done better. If a different solution is found, great, do that next time; if not, oh well, just don’t do something similar to that thing that clearly didn’t work. Now that I had that much more mental energy to spend but significantly fewer things to spend it on, I was able to do the correct things much more efficiently.

It’s somewhat akin to a hardening or an annealing. All the things I had learned were indeed useful and they are definitely why I was able to play such good performances this week, but before this weekend those ideas and developing habits sat alongside their bad and counterproductive counterparts in my toolbox of available moves. Before I would just sit and wait for a bit to let the opponent potentially make the first move while I thought about which idea to execute, but this past weekend and now, that sort of doubt or pondering has been erased. If I feel like I want to try something new now, I ask myself and almost immediately answer – if not within two seconds, then I decide when my tank has driven to the last point where a decision can be made without turning around.

There are no more great debates in my mind between two great powerful voices.

Only a “That looks interesting. Shall we do it? Ok gogogo.”

The following is my general mindset in WOT, sorted by tank types. The first three are the main tank types in the game, the latter two are supporting types and generally require assistance from other tanks both to be able to do damage and move forward on the map. With a little translation, I think the Heavies and Lights mindsets can be easily used in playing real world power games.

Now that I know I like playing power games, what I’m interested next is what exactly my style and strengths are. I prefer certain tanks in WOT because of my playstyle; I play these tanks in WOT rather than any class in many other games because of my playstyle – what does this mean for my style in real life, and where can I find games in real life which my style can dominate?

Heavies:
1. PUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSHH
2. Where is the furthest conceivable safe position I can be in at this point in time?
3. If I do not have sente, how do I gain sente? If I have sente, what move can I make that keeps sente?
4. HP is a resource. It is not only something that the opponent takes, but something that has ways for you to correctly spend it. HP generally buys either time or initiative.

5. I can’t die to this guy, I have to be alive so I can kill the next guy.

6. PUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSHHHHH

Lights:
1. I must see the midgame/endgame to fully utilize my strengths.
2. What do I know about the enemy deployment and where are its holes?
3. “General” scouting is generally dumb. Scouting should be thought of as marginal.
4. Don’t shoot unless someone else is already shooting.
5. Don’t shoot unless it’s their sides or their ass.

Mediums:
1. High tier mediums: see Heavies.
2. Low tier mediums: see Lights.
3. Mid tier mediums: depends on specific tank. Pick either Heavies or Lights.

TDs:
1. Fuck TDs.

Arties:
1. Fuck arties.

 

ADDENDUM

Someone else’ll fix it.

And it’ll be me. And I’ll carry until my fucking back breaks. And those worthless fucking assholes will get another win they don’t deserve.

After a whole year of learning and failing to manage/lead/carry engineering project teams I was supposed to take a month off to just relax and play videogames, but apparently I just went from the pool to the pond; from being 1 of 6, 1 of 3, to 1 of 15.

And now I just don’t care anymore. It’s not even a 拖死佢 thing where I’m secretly hiding bitterness, I actually just don’t care whether or not someone’s “leeching” or if I’m carrying people anymore. Obviously it’d be better if every teammate was productive but it doesn’t really matter, and it’s not because of “we’re a team” or some feel-good bullshit.

It’s because what I want is to win. I happen to be playing a team game so I have to defeat more opponents. If my teammates can only contribute the most minimal things then mathematically the rest of it falls on me. If I happened to carry some shitfuckers along the way then they got lucky and I got experience. If there are teammates who appreciate my efforts and work with me then that’s great too. But it’s not the main idea. If it becomes the main idea then relying on other people becomes an MO, and both winrates and relationships will falter.

The idea is for me to win and survive. The rest is built on top of that.

The only difference is in real life there is no big public objective stat tracking board.

The Top 10 Things I Learned of at College [7~10]

I’ve been catching on to a few other ideas recently and am starting to be able to explain them, but this was in the way, so I’ll finish it up first.

“Attack From the Furthest Possible Distance”

This is a saying I heard in Go club on talking about attacking a group on the board. In Go every group of stones has “liberties”, points immediately outside the group that are not yet filled, and one of the two rules of Go is that when a group has no more liberties it dies. When beginners want to attack a group they usually “attach”, that is immediately play on one of a group’s outside points. This is disadvantageous because you immediately start out with fewer liberties. Even if it’s only one stone, which has four liberties, when one plays next to that stone each player’s stone now has three – but it’s now the opponent’s move.

Supposing the attack, the question becomes how far away, and the answer is “as far away as possible”. “As possible” being not the 19×19 on the board, but how far away one can play that one’s followup can still effectively make that stone useful in the attack. Sometimes it actually is attaching to the opponent’s stones, usually it’s three or four away, occasionally it actually is on the opposite side of the board. “Liberty” in the immediate is where one can play while still being connected; in the larger scale if we count not just the immediate points but the empty points around a stone, it means potential, influence, power. The more liberties you have the more plays you are able to set up, 1) the more choices and potential mistakes the opponent can make, and 2) the more things the opponent has to worry about defending against.

The focus of this idea is not so much “Kill as many birds as you can with one stone” as it is the principle behind it: stability and readiness. Attacks should not be executed with the mindset of victory at the fastest speed, or obliteration of the enemy to the cleanest completion, but rather “attack so that if an attack or defense of something else also needs to occur, that can also be done with the minimal amount of additional trouble”. If the answer to this is doing it ASAP or obliteration, then the thought process occurs in that order, not the other way around.

In practice I’ve found this is the best counter to inadvertently tunnel-visioning, though of course tunnel-vision has its benefits and is sometimes the furthest possible distance.

Logistics / Architecture is 99% of everything.

Morality is garbage. Movements are garbage. Ideologies are garbage. And by garbage I mean decoration, because if garbage had a use it wouldn’t be garbage.

No one cares about what you think happens in the world, or thinks should happen in the world, or what you call it, or whatever. Doesn’t matter if more people like/agree with you, or the other way around. The only thing that matters is what happens. “Actions speak louder than words” is the dumb version because it encourages activism, and activism is stupid, because no one cares about what you think should happen in the world.

The simplest example everyone knows about is that clicking like on facebook doesn’t actually save any starving african children. However this doesn’t stop people from continuing to voice or show “support” for any number of other things which are only ideas to them, which is why it doesn’t matter, because they’re only ideas. The “support” for a political movement of any kind, let’s say the gay marriage one for instance, isn’t important insofar as it “advances progress in society” as it is signalling to media that that’s the kind of fashion the market margins are into these days, and the same sort of thing to politicians and their votes. This sort of thing is not ignored by standard ideologues, who actually admit “that’s how things work, unfortunately”, right before they go back to being drunk on whatever pet mythos they subscribe to.

Removing the “unfortunately”, that is to say, no longer thinking that the way things work is unpleasant and therefore deserves more looks than “is absolutely necessary”, reveals that it’s basically everything. The desire, the intent, the idea, the description of something is almost completely irrelevant to what it is and how it works. Perhaps the important point of this fairly easy to understand concept is its usefulness in clearing away the smoke and mirrors.

Some examples.

Independence from family:

The American Dream is that everyone grows up to have their own family, their own single suburban home, with their own car, and this all starts off with moving out of the house when you’re 18 / out of college. There’s some statistics floating around recently talking about how some large percentage of young adults are now living at home with their parents for an extended period of time, and it’s being read as a bad trend, “lazy Generation Y” or whatever. Ignoring potential laziness, increasing college tuition and debt, bad job market and all the other circumstances, why can’t one live at home with one’s parents? I understand the appeal of having your own place and having privacy to do whatever it is you want to do, but the choice of staying at home is not unreasonable.

Most 20-somethings don’t have their own single detached suburban two-story five-bedroom houses, but rather a one or two bedroom apartment. They don’t own the apartment, they pay rent, which according to Numbeo averages about 1000/mo in the USA. Supposing they get a supposedly respectable 60,000 as an annual salary (random number), decrease that by 25% due to taxes (estimate), that’s 3750 per month to the individual and therefore about 1/3 to rent, which is a fairly standard estimate.

The question of “independence” developed fully is more a question of whether paying 1000/mo more is worth the net benefits of having a separate apartment. The average 20-something is also a college grad, which means they also have about 29000 in student loans debt. Let’s round down and ignore interest, say it’s 1000/yr for 25 yrs.  Live at home for a little over two years and all that debt is gone. Live “by yourself” and maybe the drain on your bank account will stop sometime before your 40th birthday.

Supposing your parents treat you like shit, do you want to be someone’s little bitch for two years, or for twenty five years?

Obviously it does depend on how badly you think of your parents, but it is something that requires weighing. It’s not a foregone conclusion that independence is better.

Independence itself is also a fairly silly concept. A childhood friend of mine apparently is “living on his own” these days because he doesn’t like either of his divorced parents. I asked my mom how he moved into his new apartment and if he had any at all help from his parents. The silliness extends everywhere. How exactly is one living “off the grid” when it involves driving a factory-made truck to buy international corporation extracted and refined gasoline/diesel? Is a country really independent if it imports or exports anything at all, or is always being told by AMERICA what and what not to do?

Solar Highways/Ocean Cleanup:

Logistics is why all the “THIS IS THE FUTURE” or “I FUCKING LOVE SCIENCE” type stuff doesn’t fly. (The reason why it’s annoying is something different and has to do with religiosity.)

There are plenty of reasons why solar highways won’t work, the one that sticks out to me is fatigue.

Roads are made the way they are for a reason; they were made of something before asphalt when horses and the things they pulled were common and they’re made of asphalt now because the most common transportation is cars. Weighing stations exist because the roads are designed to have a certain lifetime to them and if you load them more more often then they will break faster and need repair. Asphalt is the most common material to cover roads with due to its cheapness, availability, and because it’s basically rock. Solar panels have to be made of glass or something that’s transparent so that the flimsy fancy stuff underneath it can work. Assuming crystal clear perfect weather and no integration problems between each solar roadway cell, and ignoring power transmission because I have no clue how that works, by simple fatigue the cells will have to be replaced at a ridiculous pace. That, and there’s no way in hell there’s that many materials lying around to make that many solar cells. That kind of stuff isn’t just expensive because “THE MAN IS HOLDING US DOWN”, it’s because there’s actually not that much of it.

On the green energy note, electric cars at least in America actually run on coal. Perhaps in Germany or France or Japan they run on nuclear, but electricity for electric cars from the power grid, and the power grid isn’t something that just has infinite power. Just because pollution doesn’t happen at your location when you’re driving doesn’t mean you’re not polluting. Also electric car batteries require rare earth metals. Do you think those were mined using something that didn’t run on diesel?

The logistical problem I saw in Boy Genius Boyan Slat’s Ocean Cleanup wasn’t so much that it wouldn’t work, but why Boy Genius matters at all. This was happening about a month ago right after the solar highway fad died out; people started posting TED talks of apparently some genius 19 year old who thought up of something that would clean up the garbage patches in a very short amount of time! We should totally support this idea he’s being held down by the maaaaaan maaaaan. Shit doesn’t happen just because it’s good, and even if that is why things happen, why do they happen when they happen? When isn’t a why, language is poor at defining time, and no you aren’t allowed to ignore it. I found out the fad occurred in ~June because the organization had released some new report in May, which explained why the fad was happening then and not in 2012 when the organization first formed. The report has Boyan Slat plastered on so many chapters it’s unclear how much of it he actually looked through and contributed to, his own website talks about diving in Greece so clearly he’s from a really rich family, and the lack of any other sort of description of his background while the backgrounds of the people in the organization are so extensive shows fairly clearly that this guy is most likely just a posterchild because the environmentalist message doesn’t have enough kick to it.

And it really doesn’t. How anyone thinks only this “genius” 19-year old could’ve thought of this idea is either implausible or shows just how stupid people really are. His solution literally consists of a bunch of buoys that funnel the plastic into a collector which then every so often gets visited by a tanker and emptied out. The mechanics of the buoy funnel system were somewhat interesting to me and I read what I could, but it’s not really the point, the fact that the concept is the funnel is the point. Which is retarded because that’s literally the only concept that makes sense. Supposing that the ocean would be cleaned up of plastic garbage, how else would you do it? Pick it up by hand? By robotic arm? Train dolphins? It has to be a net of some kind that collects it over time; the rest of the details is stuff that you need engineers with experience, a lot of engineers with experience, to figure out how one would go about it. “But Boyan Slat made the decisions” someone’s never watched any dramas with supposed child monarchs in them. I’ve experienced firsthand how hard managing TWO people is over FIVE MONTHS; where the hell did this kid get the experience to manage a hundred people over two years from? How did he oversee which parts and who got paid? Where is the money coming from? None of the logistics make any sense.

It doesn’t work by the way; the foundation admits this on pg 432 of their report. It is not at all profitable, and economically costs per unit about the same as a beach cleanup. It also takes 10 years not 5 (pg 25), and it’s not all plastics but about 27% of them (pg 175) at 40~45% efficiency (pg 25). How do I know this, because I read. I’ve also read Kickstarter’s statistics for projects larger than 100K have a 7% delivery rate, and that’s the model that Boyan Slat’s organization is using to ask for 2M. “But you’re not paying 2M, it’s just like 1 or 2 dollars!” Then I might as well not contribute. Ocean pollution with plastic is unfortunate but this isn’t about to really change anything and I don’t believe it’ll work well at all. If it really did work and really did make profit I expect some big corporation to be funding it; the fact that they have to rely on a kickstarter and some random rich kid as their poster just shows me that this is a cute little side project organized by some connected guy somewhere hoping to earn a buck or two for their hobby. Like hell all those hundred something people work full time for this organization, there’s no money.

“You just like the status quo!”

That’s the trick you see. It doesn’t matter what I want. I can want rare earth metals to be common, or Boyan Slat’s project to fully clean the oceans within 5 years and profit the whole time, but that doesn’t make them happen. I can also want to care about the environment, but that doesn’t make pop cult environmentalists believe me.

Killing women and children is immoral:

This belief is more common than toilet paper, and is usually said or thought with contrast to killing men. Ignoring details on whether killing is moral or not under whatever situations, the fact that such a distinction on killing between “men” and “women and children” signifies that whatever value life has, a man’s life is worth less than a woman’s or a child’s. Man vs Woman has some biological justification namely in fertility ratio, as for children I have no idea but in cases like a sinking ship the purpose of life to begin with is that genes are passed onto the next generation so if you have a kid and you had to choose, you would let your kid live.

Supposing the sunken ship and a bunch of women and children live, what happens? They live, but they now have no source of income, and if the mother goes to work and becomes the source of income then the mother figure is gone and there’s no particular advantage to having the mother over the father (I’ve read stats that say single mother causes significantly more problems in the future than single fathers but I currently lack links). If it’s an orphan kid then he goes back to the orphanage, and if it’s a single woman then perhaps there’s some argument if she’s younger than 30.  If it’s your woman and your child then the choice is clear but if it’s other women and children there’s nothing special about them.

The futures argument (“but the kid could be X!”) isn’t really an argument since by definition it defies actual quantification; it’s more a matter of whether you want your engineers and doctors now rather than your engineers and doctors later. This would be a population or demographics balancing problem then and not a moral problem – in other words, “killing women and children is worse than killing men” is a false statement and the true statement would be “killing women is sometimes worse than killing men and killing children” and the other two versions. One would obviously choose Einstein to live over a crack addict prostitute, but that again is outside of the original moral claim. Choosing anyone over a random infant is harder to argue for in writing due to the extremely strong protective instinct, but if one was just born on the sinking ship and it was one of those that had defects that’d kill it within the next 12 hours, and you were choosing between that and a famous pop star, the choice would be obvious, and thus the statement goes back to being a case-by-case i.e. logistical issue rather than some categorical moral imperative.

Decisions in the end are made on logistics and not on concepts which are just fuzzy words. If only women and children can get onto the lifeboats, does a 16 year old male make the cut? What if he’s 17.5 or 17.99? If the woman is a transgender or a crossdresser do they count? How old can the women be before they are counted as elderly and not allowed on? How much net worth does a man have to have so that he can get to captain a boat and get off alive? How much command does a woman have to have shown before she’s allowed to replace one of those men? Careful not to make a mistake now, you’re killing people you know.

It’s not so easy if you have to think about it. It’s really easy to just say something is immoral.

A good rote repetition to start on thinking in terms of logistics is to phrase all claims in terms of a question. If it is said “X is true!”, make yourself hear “If I said X is true, would you believe me, and if so how do you think it works?”

Note that logistics is exactly why philosophical “thought experiments” are never modified. An experiment consists of testing a hypothesis of a control group versus various variable groups, but the trolley problem for instance is always presented in a single form. Whether your philosophy/debate teacher taught you it in the form one versus five or one versus ten, the question always remains in that one smaller versus larger value and the question posed is always whether action is more immoral than inaction. They never ponder the difference between one to five versus one to six, or if it was instead ten to one, one woman to five men, one elderly to five babies, or one jew to five koreans. The students sometimes bring it up, but the teacher always turns them back and asks them the impossible question of universalizing it by making up some a priori principle. If it was encouraged, the resulting plethora of variations would reveal that morality is a fraud concept that actually only exists inside the very narrow mental corridors and that the students aren’t talking with seekers of truth and masters of the world, but social engineers.

Another result of seeing things in terms of logistics is that there is no need to continually seek a new “edge” that the mainstream has or hasn’t gotten to, as seems to be the case for many “skeptics” whose MO is more about differentiating themselves from what they see as the group than anything else. Logistics clears away the smoke and mirrors if that is what you want, but they also help explain why the smoke and mirrors exist. “Sleazy tactics” are understood as a subset of “tactic” rather than a subset of “sleazy”, making its substance one of an action that has its own purpose, effectiveness, and other attributes, rather than one of emotional self-image defense. I hate feminists and I’d absolutely never date or marry one, but the feminist/SJW movement has gained power somehow and regardless of whether it was largely handed to them or largely self-made, the fact of the matter is it’s something I would not expect and if possible I’d like to figure out and learn exactly how they managed to get to the forefront of all media today. Again it’s easy enough to just say “women are consumers/larger voter base”, but I’m interested in the actual things that went on. This interest would not be possible if I was the standard anti-feminist.

“Architecture” is the word I use to describe the larger organization of logistics. It is the strategy to the tactics.

Ignoring lewds, the only real passion I have is PvP.

Every time there’s a group presentation in engineering and someone brings their laptop, the background shown before PowerPoint is moved over is without fail some picture of something related to engineering. A sports car, a fighter jet, the space shuttle, the ISS, some famous piece that everyone’s heard of or seen before. At first I thought it was just for the show, like a dress code or common etiquette because that’s the kind of schizophrenic puritan culture this country has, but no, some people actually care so much about their major or career path that even if you drop in on them working at the lab or at home you’ll see the exact same pic. Whether or not this is honest or part of this culture’s psychology problem is not really relevant, fact is, it’s there, it’s there for most people, and I can’t give a shit about it.

You know what I want to see when I minimize all my windows?

A pretty girl with a gorgeous smile.

Cause that’s one of the two things I want in life, and the other one has absolutely nothing to do with my vocation. “But everyone likes sex” I would imagine so, but not everyone likes engineering. And I really don’t like engineering. I appear to have a natural talent for the most basic stuff, but everything beyond it I’m somewhere between mediocre and bad. And I can’t care to learn more about it. Some of it is certainly due to the fact that structured education is structured horribly, but even now that I have free time I can’t care really to do much about that subject on my own.

The real medium is pursue what you are talented at. Ideally this will also be something that you enjoy, but if it isn’t that’s why hobbies exist. Employers pay for talent, they don’t pay for making employees feel fulfilled and they don’t pay people who have below-average knowledge in an ‘in-demand’ field. All the people on /pol/ who can’t find jobs with STEM degrees? They have a < 3.3 GPA because they didn’t have the talent for it. Sucks to be them.

People say because I have a mechanical engineering degree that it’ll be easy for me to find jobs as opposed to if I had a different major or no degree, maybe this is true maybe it isn’t, whether it is or not I don’t care because while money is important I’m probably going to be just as bored flipping burgers or taking calls as I am doing CAD. The one time in my four years at college where I thought the workload was getting fun and interesting was near the end with managing projects, but the interest there was more in the project management than in the engineering. Manipulating several variables and attempting to account for an unknown amount of unknowns while working with several people is a pretty fun challenge, but if the scope was the same I’m sure I’d still have the same amount of excitement if it was replaced by economics or politics or something. “But you have a background in engineering” yes, but do managers with “backgrounds” in something have the same kind of passion, vision, and perspective that the ground experts do? I don’t think so.

I tried to trace my interest in management to a broader principle. It wasn’t the accounting, as my detail-tracking is somewhat spotty and tires me out. It wasn’t the creating knowns from unknowns, since I’m not the type to just randomly build stuff on my own. The balancing between speed and certainty of decisions was definitely part of it but didn’t explain enough, since that kind of thing happens all the time anyways and it’s not like I get excited just by walking around in real life. The answer I found was in manipulating other people. The “evil boss” figure as is commonly imagined is something I don’t have the natural skill for; I don’t have the conception of some sort of absolutist power so that’s not what I enjoyed while being a manager. “Control” didn’t exist; people rarely did what i told or asked them to do even if it was by their own suggestion. The interesting part of being a manager was that my role relied on my ability to make people do what I want them to do.

“PvP”: Player versus Player. My core interest in this life is mental combat against other people. I’m not particularly interested in winning or losing, just that there was an interesting enough fight that challenged my skills enough so that my mind was pushed to its limits and I can bring enough from that experience to improve on future fights. Everything that I am interested in that isn’t biologically driven is in some way related to mental combat skills. Writing and philosophy are to structure the mind, reading is essentially the equivalent of watching a replay of someone else’s fight, games are actually simulated fights. Logistics is the thing you have to have a “background” in to be a good fighter; it’s not like politicians and journalists are actually just dumb. My interest in management wasn’t the power over others, but the game of dealing with both people supposedly more and less powerful than me. The average team member for instance has his teammates as equals, his manager as someone who basically tells him what to do, and that’s it. However much leeway his manager gives him is not really an issue, as the discussions would largely revolve around the project substance and not the power differentials. I might be totally wrong about this since I have very little experience in office politics, perhaps team members can have the exact same kind of experience. In that case then the management is irrelevant, but does not make engineering or whatever my vocation is become the primary focus. If that was the case then it simply does not really matter to me what kind of work I do, unless there’s some field where the metagame of power is more suited to my tastes and tendencies than another.

Everyone wants to win and this is acceptable, but there’s some sort of notion that manipulation is “evil”. I can’t say I find this to be the case; if we are of conflicting interests then I will to the best of my ability find out how to make your interests align with mine, at least for the most crucial moves. The model of conflict as an arm wrestle or some sort of contest of the single variable of strength is somewhat simplistic; one does not simply win because “they want it more”. Wanting it more is what leads to more experimentation and experience, the first step of advancement of which I see is to make the opponent do what you want. Direct conflict is the least efficient method; if you can deflect their attention, evade them, or make them help you, then everything becomes significantly easier. Changing the mind of an opponent is also standardly modelled as some sort of evil brainwashing, when it can take on any sort of form from the Godfather’s offer you can’t refuse to offering a kid a popsicle to stop them from bawling to a simple apology after a mistake. My interest in PvP has clarified to me that logistically there is no point in getting mad about people having a cover “lie” about things no matter how big, but also why a particular “lie” exists, why that “lie” was chosen over other “lies”, and potentially how I can use that sort of tactic. There is no “right” or “wrong”, only “what I like” and “stuff that prevents me from getting to what I like”.

Just as engineered devices are the tools people use to get to their interests of sports/fashion/etc, engineering is at least for the near future going to be my tool to get to my interest of PvP.

The Top 10 Things I Learned of at College [1~6]

I felt like doing something vaguely productive, “productive” being defined as “completing something off my to do list”, and I got bored doing the other things for the time being so here I am. Not entirely sure about this style as a general standard, but it certainly feels nice for a change. “Not sure” only because I feel vaguely lethargic and do enjoy high-tension situations – in a sense that summarizes what I look for in life, but I’ll get to that in a bit. In any case I’m not against doing things only when I feel like because I’ll become some hedonist that doesn’t contribute to society; it’s not like anyone has any delusions that that’s what college students are anyways. How many people actually contribute to society anyways? This is not to say that one shouldn’t try, but worrying about getting there is pointless. Thinking about it more certainly will reveal more possibilities and pathways, how much more who knows, and that’s the point at which this kind of thing needs to be weighed. But I’ll get to that too.

9 of these things are fairly direct and can be taken away easily. One is personal and directed towards myself in the future, though it can probably be extrapolated from with a bit of effort.

They are things I “learned of” “at” college; “learned of” as in started noticing that the concept was important, and “at” as in it happened with events related to that location. I make no claim that this is stuff college tries to teach, does teach, or successfully teaches. I think college is stupid. But other people don’t for some reason so I had to deal with it, and these are what I got out of it.

They are listed in no particular order.

You have margins, you’re fine; you don’t have margins, you’re fucked.

“Margins” being defined as material, energy, mental energy, man-hours, money to redistribute at a moment’s notice. My dad calls it “buffer zone”; in essence it is “being prepared”.

In middle school I pulled all-nighters, in high school I started doing stuff two days before it was due. At the start of college I went back to doing all-nighters, and then at the end I was pushing towards one or two weeks ahead. One of the reasons was because deadlines got more dead, as I no longer was able to spend enough time with teachers to befriend them and have leeway given if it was desired; another reason was because stuff started getting harder to understand or reasonably grasp in the period of time that it was taught in. Perhaps the candidate for the biggest reason of them all was because in K-12 the teachers accepted the margins while in college the professors forced them onto me. If teachers were for whatever reason unable to teach some material in time, they simply didn’t test on it. In college, however, even if the professor is going off doing their own thing at some conference or whatever, they’ll just send you a 50 page PDF instead and expect you to know all of it within 42 hours. I’m somewhat curious as to why professors do this kind of thing, perhaps that particular one could get away with it because he was black? In any case the environment shifts, and you can call it going from “hand-holding” to “self-study” or whatever floats your boat, but none of those analogies clicked for me.

People in general don’t really give a shit if you encountered some problems, you’re expected to deal with them. Short of having an amazing network, an unbelievable set of skills, or an inheritance, extra stuff has to be in place ready to be consumed. Having margins requires some other things, and leads to some changes in the mindset, the greatest of which is “luck” plays a significantly smaller role.

In many videogames I’ve played where the damage output is somehow influenced by RNG, lower-tier players will regularly complain about their deaths being “lucky”. The psychology of character defense/attack is obviously the purpose here but not the discussion at this time. The important thing is that the top-tier players will never complain about RNG, even if there are cases where that it’s a fairly significant problem. This is because they are planned around. In the case of damage being randomized, the simplest possible solution is to simply be in a position where you cannot be hit, as movement is generally left completely up to the player. There is also communicating with your team, watching a minimap, or simply keeping track of who’s alive and dead and where their last known locations were. The idea is to use the strengths available to you to mask the weaknesses you have. While the final shot may or may not be lucky, and surviving with single digit hit-points can always lead to a more intense and memorable game, the act of that is not really one of skill and thus not something to think about too much.

It is entirely possible that even with margins you can still be fucked, but that’s not the point. The idea is to take the opportunity the best way it can be handled. This is not something people who find those intense situations where someone’s barely scraping past, real life or not, as something that’s overcome due to luck or the favor of god or whatever can really see. Consider someone who complains about luck a lot and put them in an intense situation where they’re about to fail, and then give them one more chance. How much faith would you have that they’d be able to take that chance and use it in any optimal way?

They would’ve already relaxed and given up.

The margin here is of mental focus, and by extension, mental capacity.

For my JPN class I wrote two essays, one of which was reproduced here. The second one I did not post because it was of significantly poorer quality. While both of them got top marks, the second one did not have anywhere near the range or depth as the first. The prompts for both essays were the same, take at least one movie shown in the class and write some argument about it. The first essay I quoted from my favorite story of all time, used a handful of books, mentioned a few real world events, cited a 4chan post, and an anime I had watched recently. The second essay I used one movie, and mentioned two other movies in a single sentence. The first essay could’ve been 15 pages with no issue but was compressed down to 9 in interest of increasing meaning density, the second essay had to be stretched every step of the way to get it to reach the minimum.

The disparity in these two essays stemmed almost entirely from the fact that I had not been reading or watching or doing much anything other than engineering senior design since the first essay. I had no time to think about anything nor did I want to. I was basically living the productive adult life of waking up early in the morning, working all day on stuff I stopped caring about with people I hated, coming back to a dark empty home, stuffing something down my throat and then sleeping.

That I got a top tier grade on the second essay only reinforces the idea of margins. Put a different way,

If you want to reliably be an class A, your quality has to be SSS.

Everyone has good days and bad days, encounter fortunate and unfortunate circumstances. Everyone has a distribution, and that distribution filtered through with some randomness (i.e. tests in classroom or real life) is what the final publicized result is. To always be in the top group, you have to be better than those conceived of as the best.

It is vaguely amusing that the common idea of the top tier straight A student is someone who studies every single day as hard as the average student does their all-nighter before the final. The things said about hard work are either said wrong or interpreted wrong, my guess being both and that it’s not a mistake for a significant portion of the population. There’s a missing word there that people mean but don’t say, the full phrase being “hard work now“. Hard work now will get you where you want to be. The more obvious obverse of this hidden word is that it justifies laziness up through the last moment, wherever the user happens to arbitrarily decide is “the last moment”. “Dude I’ve been working on this essay that’s due tomorrow all day long, fuck this professor, assigning a fifteen page research paper” should really not be said by someone who goes partying every night during the main term, but people are pretty near-sighted.

The correct version is hard work always, which for anyone who haven’t caught on is a metaphor because you can’t always be slaving away at a single-minded goal. The idea should at least have some credence for anyone who’s ever pulled all-nighters or worked last minute for everything, because it’s clear that the quality of the rush work at the end is abysmal. Learning and understanding is generally not strictly linear, it’s usually a network of difficult-to-explain nonlinear chains, which is why experience is so valuable and good teachers are hard to find. To be good at something one must desire to take several different routes towards several different destinations, and to do that one must have the energy to do so. I don’t entirely understand the mechanics of physical or mental fatigue, but the simple answer is that it takes a lot of time, and 10,000 hours to master something probably is around the correct order of magnitude. At least 2,000 hours of those are guaranteed to be screwing around with random things – not in the “I stopped playing piano to read Yahoo Celebrity” sense, but in the “I stopped doing Hanon’s exercises to see if I can make up a random nice-sounding tune cause I got an idea”.

Training gives the mental margin for excellent performance during opportunities/crises. But free time/exploration in general is what produces the ideas that will be used in those crucial times.

The second half of the statement is fairly trivial. There are many things in the world you do not control, and if you do not shield or avoid yourself with more than you “need”, you are going to have a bad time.

Record everything.

1) History is a political tool, and 2) It’s stored experience.

1) I first heard about its strength when talking with my dad about my mini capstone project in the fall quarter. I was also team manager back then, and had some people who failed to do their parts on time. He told me about his experiences as the president of some Chinese organization, which he said shared the important characteristic of the group being a bunch of strangers with no strong incentives to link them all together. Can’t really give them money because there is no money, can’t really punish them because they can just leave. In this situation the strongest friend is history, which takes the form of recording minutes and keeping up-to-date agendas. In this way, if someone fails to do their part or keep their word, there is a public record of it. Conflicts change from “self-proclaimed leader against member(s)” to “people lied and are a burden to the team”. These can get so powerful that there have been incidents where the minutes/agenda book was tampered with or stolen.

I cannot say I entirely understand the internal workings of “history”. There are mirrors of this in major league politics so I am inclined to believe that if not his individual story is true then at least the principle in general is true. It certainly doesn’t always work; I wrote agendas every week this quarter in senior design and no one could care less if something wasn’t done on time. But it is certainly a strong tool in some situations, and it changes substance from “my word vs your word” to “evidence”. The cost of simply keeping track of things is low enough to be good to simply always do.

Even if it’s a record not made public until prosecution, the strength in detail of a log written ‘as events occurred’ seems to be much stronger than a testimony given at that point in time.

2) It’s probably not too good an idea to look into things too much and overdiagnose situations, but recording situations in high detail allows for future review. This is in part why I have been changing the format of entries in this blog. I neither like to write nor want to read entries that are aimed at trying to claim some universal principle, or some theory about what direction civilization should move in. Whatever I write will probably be discovered to be wrong in the future, and in the present it just sounds arrogant. I certainly enjoy arrogance and hard-headedness from time to time but as a staple or standard in writing I must disagree. What I am interested in, and what I think people would find most useful, is the story of how the conclusion was reached. Obviously how we think will filter out the details we remember and decide to talk about, and those who disagree with us more will find that more important parts are missing, but the idea remains the same.

This idea I also got from videogames, many of which have replay systems where you can watch from the player’s perspective (and sometimes also from others) what information they had and what decisions they made, as they were making them. Replays are significantly more informative to the player who wants to improve their skills than an article summarizing what occurred in the game and unnecessarily flourishing what are often the most pointless details, namely that such-and-such player of such-and-such team did some move and it had a greater-than-normal effect, which doesn’t say anything about the leadup, the execution, or the followup of what that player did, what the team did, and how the opponents responded in real time. There are limitations in writing and limitations in video that do not allow full replays of real life, but recording in a diary or blog every week or so of major events, even if it’s just a bullet point list, with your major thoughts on each of them, goes a long way in remembering in the future.

The purpose of remembering in the future is not to just learn or improve on the past, but to test the mindset at that point in time. If say at some point in the past you encountered a crisis and comfortably overcame it, but somewhere along the way you changed how you did things and notice that if you encountered it again today you would not like it at all, then some review is to be had. I believe this kind of thing is more common than people think. I randomly encountered the test for Machiavellian behavior the other day and got about the same score that I did previously, but some of the choices I made were the opposite, and for some which I gave the same answer I now have a completely different justification – which would be fine, but I also don’t remember changing my opinion on some things. Writing your thoughts down is a good way to get to know yourself: shifting introspection from a single deep sessions and then forgetting afterwards to smaller ones over time that are easier to remember.

Recording whats “actually” going on in general is also pretty helpful simply because the smallest bit more context can lead to significantly more extrapolation. Originally when I started my quotes collection blog I only planned on doing single lines or monologues. I’ve been doing more and more dialogues though, because this narrows the range of interpretation for the intended meat of the selection and therefore – at least for some – increases the quality and intensity of the message.

If you think you’ve met the worst piece of garbage, you will be shown wrong.

Things can always get worse. This one got its own line because I didn’t realize “people” were in the category of “things”, I didn’t realize it until college, and because it’s actually one of the top 10 things I learned in college. Of itself it’s not too special perhaps, but I’ve historically hated “selling out” and still don’t like writing resumes, cover letters, doing interviews, all the stuff most people don’t like in relation to job applications – and now I can at least justify their face value existence.

People are actually just fucking garbage. I have a vague idea of why there’s the idea that most people are born good or are “nice people once you get to know them”, and they certainly serve their PR purposes, but as actual moves you play out in your head and as actual expectations of the world, don’t expect things out of other people unless you can nail them for it. Most people you can’t nail, at least not to a wall or to the ground, which is what matters. And if you can’t do that, they can do whatever they want, and it’s usually not what you want. Keeping your enemies closer than your friends has a second meaning, namely, that your friends are probably less reliable than your enemies. Your enemies can be relied on to do what’s against your interests, and you know what those are more clearly than you know what your friends’ interests are. Additionally, the line between you and your enemy is clearly defined. The line between you and your friends usually is not. Having and finding a good friend has to deal with margins, namely that both parties do significantly more than is “necessary” for the other. People in general do not set enough or any margins, which leads to unreliability and what feels to the idealist (read: people who think they’ve met the worst piece of garbage) like exceptionally poor performance.

I’ve talked about the experiences relating to this in the previous two entries detailing senior design. There are also some experiences I have relating to the Right/Alt Right blogosphere, but I heard name dropping is bad so I won’t do that. Also because the probability of some no-name blogger name-dropping and actually being helpful to someone is low, and I believe the probability of them crashing and burning is high.

The reason why I specify “friend” in this point is because one of them is going to become the next worst piece of garbage. The lesson is that people are unreliable, but you wouldn’t rely on any random stranger anyways, so the problem shifts towards those you are likely to rely on. You are probably wrong with your reading of some people close to you, and every mistake you fix means that the next problem will be an order of magnitude more serious.

Thinking you have it all figured out “now” should not be a thought you have.

Scoping and rescoping.

Scoping is setting the border around your task, defining what it means. Rescoping is doing it again due to any change.

I wrote about it a bit here, but that was really only about how to think about starting tasks.

Scoping is something I learned in college because it happened to have a lot of things going on without enough information or help to determine what exactly it was I needed to do at what times with what people using how much energy. K-12 is really straightforward and simple so simple dumping energy whenever (“hard work now”) was enough, but at college, with academic jargon everywhere and professors that don’t care going too fast and treating you like you’re only taking their class, it gets too stressful to simply do everything last minute over and over again. Scoping is also required for any large project simply due to the higher requirement of man-hours; in K-12 where group projects could actually be done by any single member in one night the worry of someone flaking was easily negated simply by having mommy help. The capstone project required for the college of engineering here is on a timeline of five months to research, plan, and sometimes build a project, significantly larger than the two-three weeks to make a poster or presentation out of textbook/lecture material.

Talking with my little brother it’s clear that even though I still haven’t a clue on what’s going on in the real world, I have a better idea of how to approach things. I’ll need to look into this more later, but the way things are presented to children it’s very clear that they’re expected to already have an idea of what to do, or alternatively, not need to think about what they need to do in order to do it. Get good grades in school, go to college, find a job, get a wife, own a home, make a family, save for old age – these things sound like checklist items the way they’re talked about. This checklist mentality is reinforced by the way material is standardly taught, i.e. X textbook of Y chapter, see theory/law/lesson Z and practice problems 13-27.

When tied with an objective and a deadline, not knowing what is going on incentivizes attempting to define what is possible at the very beginning.

Rescoping is basically the same thing as scoping but coming from checklisting is a big enough step on its own to warrant mentioning. It’s not too hard to guess and set scope so that there’s plenty more margin than you need on all tasks and learning approximately what each one actually needs along the way, but do that too much and it’s basically another checklist. All plans going FUBAR somewhere along the way and requiring a change strengthens scoping ability, but any kind of rescoping is valuable because it is a reminder that the definition and perspective of what is going on is also a choice. This allows flexibility in thought, which can lead to more optimal results and less waste.

In senior design, an instrument fried at the last second before it was needed and the team member suggested we get some really fancy equipment. He gave some number of arguments, “this is really important”, “we need to get this right”, but I reminded him we actually needed to get that done that day and we had no clue how to get such equipment. We ended up using some “empirical” (read: “redneck”) method that gave us the details we needed without going through any fancy computer program, and the project was turned in on time in a significantly better form than it would’ve been otherwise. In JPN my friend watched something like ten hours of movies the day before the final because he hadn’t watched them. I hadn’t either but I skimmed google synopses for about 30 minutes and was done with it because the important things in my mind was being relaxed and getting up with no problems at 6AM. He ended up getting 6/100 points more on the final worth 30% of the overall grade, meaning he spent 20x more time for 1.8%.

If you have someone to show off to then perhaps that path makes sense; otherwise it’s a pointless endeavor.

Frame Control

Thinking the way you want to think. While redoing the Machiavellianism test I read a funny line on an article, saying that those with higher scores were “better at looking out for their self-interests”. As opposed to what, looking out for the good of society? Selfishness or arrogance, take your pick, I’ll go with “selfish”.

There’s a lot of things out there that are confusing, are deliberately confusing, are distractions or distracting, or otherwise make you forget or lose sight of your goal. It’s hard already because very few of us have a clear idea of what we want or how we plan to get there, but as that’s usually the most unclear we ever get, that’s where we are hit the hardest and most often. Friend says this, video says that, policeman and politician say the other thing, it’s pretty easy to get lost in ideas because there are people who are better at phrasing things than we are. There’s also the less human side of frame control i.e. eating and sleeping well, physical activity, and not doing drugs, but that’s the easy stuff.

If there is concise way to express what fully encompasses a mind which is strong at frame control I do not know what it is. I do have something which seems to cover what I find to be the larger part of what causes me to fail frame control, and is perhaps a candidate. From Mushashi Miyamoto’s The Book of Five Rings:

“People are naturally inclined to respond more powerfully to things happening to them than to things they are doing. This reflex must be overcome so it cannot be used against you.”

I believe frame control has a lot to do with initiative.

Recently I have been picking up Go, the ancient board game played with black and white stones. In a game of go fights usually don’t happen too directly, nor do most conflicts truly resolve until the end of a game. Groups of stones may appear to be dead, but actually making them dead means spending one or several more moves, and is usually not done as there are bigger or more urgent issues elsewhere. So long as they are not dead, however, they can be used as pressure to support other groups and influence the rest of the board. In this game that computers cannot yet beat the best humans at, the biggest problem is what ‘layer’ or ‘level’ you are looking at the game at. The goal is to surround the opponent (and territory), but it’s never really clear who’s surrounding who.

In my experience so far, having initiative (sente) is probably the most coveted thing. Staying alive, getting more territory, and having more influence is important, but having sente means you get to decide what’s going to happen, where it’s going to happen, and if you use it correctly, how it’s going to happen. Games are always “conversations” with the opponent, but having sente means you get to have more say, meaning things will go more favorably and probably end up more comfortably for you, leading to future scenarios where you not only already have a good support structure, but also are familiar with. This is reflected in public media, where whoever gets the first word in usually wins the definitional war. It is also why accusations are so powerful.

Not having initiative however isn’t the end of the world; failing to look for initiative is.

While doing work for senior design I had walked away for a couple of minutes and come back to find that my tool no longer worked. This was because someone had unplugged it from the extension cord I was using and after voicing this and walking towards the tool room to get another one, the guy who had took it said I could have it back. I asked him if he really was done with it, he said yes, and I said it’d be nice if next time he could let me know first. He decided to blow up and get angry, snatching it back right after it touched my hand, going on something about how I was using some student design team’s table, that if I didn’t like it I could move somewhere else, some other short list of things with a voice inflected to indicate high tension. I told him if he wanted me to clean off the table I could do that, if he wanted more space I could give him more space; he said what he wanted was for me to “stop giving him attitude”.

I’ve talked about frame control before but in the examples I gave I pissed people off more. Which is fine, probably not optimal, but in this case I didn’t care for this guy who clearly didn’t know me, didn’t know that I got permission from two of the team’s captains to use and work in the area, didn’t care that I got there first by more than two hours that Saturday morning, and hadn’t said anything at all prior to the conflict about me taking up too much space with the scrap material I had been carving out.

The first idea is that this guy is wrong. If I start believing that he’s right, that I’m out of bounds according to some social etiquette or whatever, then I’ve lost. No problem with losing if that’s what things turn out to be of course. But you need it to be on your terms. If it isn’t, when you’re shown wrong, you won’t understand how you’re wrong, and they’re not about to explain it to you on your terms because you accepted defeat on theirs. And obviously, you aren’t going to be winning anytime soon when it isn’t on your terms. If arguing against your mother on her terms hasn’t worked out, why would it work against anyone else?

The second idea is know your own goal. I wanted the conflict to end. Couldn’t give half a shit who this guy was or what he wanted, or even if I was kicked off the table with my tool taken back. It was clear no one but me cared in senior design at that point so I could just report that some guy had emotional instability and told me to not complete my project and call it a day, I felt overworked anyways. My “teammates” were nearby but they clearly weren’t doing anything to help, and there were other people nearby and they hadn’t done or said anything, so the only things I really had to deal with were what this neckbeard and I had said within the last minute. The total of which amounted to

  • Him taking my extension cord
  • Him getting mad
  • Him talking about me taking up too much of the table
  • Me offering to clean up the mess and shrink my workspace
  • Him saying I’m giving him “attitude”

I was fairly sure the first two items worked against him, and two following were pretty much in my favor, so all I had to do was respond to this “attitude” thing.

Which I responded to with a blank face and silence.

“Attitude” is a very poorly defined word, so as long as I look like I am awaiting an explanation from this kind samaritan who wants to make me a better person, there are no other moves he could make against me. It was not as if I had made any unreasonable statements. Anyone would be frustrated if something they were recently using got taken without confirmation. He hadn’t mentioned this problem he had with me before, that works against him; I offered right away to solve that problem, that works in my favor. All attacks against my character and position were neutralized or working in my favor except perhaps the remarks at the beginning, and everything else was making it look like he was on his period. Granted I didn’t have the samaritan angle in mind, but that’s how it must’ve appeared to at least a few people casually listening. I responded calmly and slowly to everything he said, and our ending positions after that exchange were me standing up holding an inoperable tool, looking slightly down at him without expression, and him hunched over the table, end of a cord in one hand, looking up at me, and angry. All that needed to be done was him continuing to blabber and dig himself into a grave – this I did get; I honestly wanted to know what the literal fucking fuck he meant by “attitude”, and I wanted to get as clear of a definition as he could manage. This would have served the triple purpose of 1) him being and appearing very invested in a personal emotional squabble instead of wanting to get back to work, 2) me actually getting an explanation of what “attitude” means for the first time in my life, and 3) significantly increasing my chances of victory since I had just offered to do what he wanted me to do.

Unfortunately he didn’t actually go down this route. He said something like “Do we have a problem?” To which I of course responded “I don’t have any problems.”

And then I got my thing back and the conflict ended, so I reached my goal.

Everyone I’ve talked to about this said they would’ve ‘taken it outside’, which is vaguely believable, though I’d imagine most of them on the spot would’ve argued directly back about how they weren’t giving any attitude. This move loses frame control, since you are denying something that has yet to be defined, and allows the other party to simply define after you have given your initial defense, making your followup look exceedingly weak. The motivation for this is character defense, namely that you don’t want to be seen as someone “with attitude”, but that’s the opponent’s goal, not the truth. Stopping them from achieving their goal by planting yourself on that goal generally isn’t the right idea. Since frame control is lost, any attempt to take it outside after that point would have looked like a poor move from someone trying to salvage what honor they have left, than someone who sees a random dweeb challenging them to a duel and entertaining the fool.

Control the larger picture of things, and the rest is much easier. The largest picture is how you see the situation.

Timing/Coordination

Most things to be done correctly have to be executed in a certain sequence, a certain configuration, and at a speed not too fast nor too slow.

I don’t know how to write about this in a way that doesn’t overly rehash what I’ve already talked about so I’ll give two quotes. The first is from Bruce Lee’s The Tao of Jeet Kune Do. The latter is from The Book of Five Rings.

“The fighter whose movements seem awkward, who never seems to find the proper distance, is always being timed, never “outguesses” his opponent, and always gives warning of his intentions before they become serious, is suffering chiefly from a lack of coordination.”

“It doesn’t matter what you know.

It matters what you can think of in time.”

And now I’m fatigued of writing so I will finish the rest at a later date.

Contractor Without a Contract

These past two and a half months have been the most stress I’ve had for as far as I can remember. The stress wasn’t from the work, which though was much more for much longer than I’ve had to do for a while, paled in comparison to the anticipation. It was from managing senior design, which not only contained this jewel of a human being, but gained a few just like him. The managing and planning weren’t the problem either. I’m not the best at those, and it was a challenge to have to be the one with the most foresight to try and set a path.

The most energy was spent on being ready.

Gout took almost a month out of me, which wasn’t too big a logistical deal since I had worked a bit ahead and caught up quick. But the orders for materials weren’t approved until three weeks in, and came in weeks four and five out of nine total. Then there were unforeseens like two feet of material being straight stolen off of a part we had already cut, the provided gasoline engine being completely unusable, people disappearing and loading off three weeks’ worth of work on me to do in three days. “You’re an engineer, deal with it”. I find the US Army Corps of Engineers motto “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” very inspiring, but in the army there are comrades and the tangible reward is living for another day in a world of death. I dealt with it “because I could”, because my standard way of learning and working through something is to throw energy at it until it works, but with the project essentially forcing me to not go or do anything related to my other two classes or anything else in my life, I’m having to have to stop giving a shit about everything through jack squat for a good month or two to regain my full sanity and composure.

Certain things like the material theft I had taken into account for previously by having a high enough margin, but things like a measuring instrument that was supposedly “tested and working” and then having it “fried” or the given engine straight up being too violent to stand next to discovered two weeks before the end aren’t things I can really deal with in a project that’s already moving twice as fast than it was planned. But because no one above me gave a shit and no one below me gave a shit and I appeared to and did give a shit, I had to deal with it.

It was like being at the starting line of a 100M sprint, legs tense and ready to make the hardest first step of acceleration, body perfectly balanced with core holding everything proper, eyes burning the path about to be taken. And waiting. Waiting for the starting pistol to fire. Waiting, waiting, waiting, for something that you don’t know whether or not will come, but you’re told to be there, you can’t leave, and you can’t just be sitting around. There’s no one else at the starting line. You can’t even see anyone else in the stadium. But you’re supposed to run the 100, so you have to be ready. And so you wait.

“Would you recommend this class to your friends?”
“No. Absolutely not.”

Then there was the way other people handled how things were going, which to put shortly would be exactly what you’d expect out of people who like going to meetings.

I paint myself as the only one doing work and interested in doing work, which is ~85% true. Near the end the shitstain would start showing that he could be promoted to a pile rather than a stain, and occasionally my friend would decide to actually do things rather than waiting for me to check on what he was doing. In general however they basically had to be told what to do and didn’t care about anything else. “You sound authoritarian, have you tried communicating and not being a dictator” would be a vaguely valid criticism if I hadn’t actually tried it and the other two weren’t pieces of shit. If you think completely unreliable people who have shown every sign of pursuing their individual interests at the obvious cost to the group should be consulted and given power because they’re “equals as human beings”,  you should go back to econ or wherever they teach the prisoner’s dilemma.

If one of your group members was singlehandedly responsible for work that accounted for 25% of the group’s grade and hadn’t shown you the slightest evidence of work the day before it was due, how would you feel? “Totally chill dude, it’s his grade too” is how they thought. If that’s how you think, please report to your local police station so they can put you on the watchlists. I did it to verify their reactions and because I didn’t feel like showing them anything. I had been transparent with my work and planning the whole time, and each of them had unloaded significant work on me at a moment’s notice. When I took on the task of doing the final poster along with the final report and the final presentation, I just set my own schedule. If they had the balls to complain about me not being transparent, I’d ask for twenty dollars. One to buy them a mirror, one for shipping and handling, and eighteen for wasted time and fuck handling bills less than twenty.

TA and Prof were garbage. TA was a cheerleader and didn’t grill or help with anything, might as well not have been there at all. Professor’s response to literally every problem we had was some variation on “that’s not my job”. Which brought to my mind every time, “what exactly is your fucking job”. It wasn’t to check that the sponsor had approved of our orders on time, it wasn’t to push for progress on the project on time, it wasn’t to check that team members had done their assignments on time, it wasn’t to resolve internal team conflicts, and as far as I can tell, the TAs handled the logistics of the “”””””class”””””” so what the fuck was her job? “Oh she’s a very busy woman” And I’m a very busy fucking man, maybe we should compare how busy we are? I wish I could just sit around and look busy to collect money “But she’s not doing that” Yes she is and that’s why any attempt at transparency is negated at every turn by the poorest excuses I’ve ever heard. 23 teams with 23 preference lists on which projects they’d like to work on and it’s “a 23 way optimization problem”? Any idiot can see that there’s no way to choose which team gets which project if several want a particular one, and with 15 of them being universally agreed to be total shit people had to be getting preferential treatment based off of prior connections. “But that’s why we asked you to send in resumes and a proposal!” So you’ll read 85 pages of resumes and 85 more pages of proposals but won’t bother to give a short explanation to what exactly it is that slob of a menopause does in this course other than being the email chokepoint. I’m sure we have other things to do with our time like talk this *week* about our *weekly* progress and then be totally satisfied with a summary of what’s been done so far this whole quarter. I guess that makes me a really busy man too. Let me just learn from the best for two weeks and see exactly how much this project falls apart.

Sponsor taught me a lot too. The official explanation is that he “accidentally overlooked” the orders or perhaps misclicked buttons, but unbeknownst to him I had full view of all orders for his whole lab. Approximately ten orders were shown before my orders, and ten after – only mine were skipped. The orders I had placed were not exceptional in cost in comparison to the others, and the others sandwiched mine by a few weeks. Later I would ask for a reimbursement, for I had gone on my own time to get some other materials to save on exorbitant freight shipping. I was told that the sponsor “was a very busy man” and I could rest assured that I’d get my money back, along with a message that I should be grateful for my opportunity in working under a former astronaut. I did forget to take that into account. Being from NASA, I should’ve had the fullest of expectations that half the things I would be receiving from this man would be completely late, and the other half straight up “forgotten”.

Similar of note was that one team member tried to play a pity card in combination with an insult. Since I had been giving him a lot of passes for not getting things done on time because he was my friend, or so it seemed, he thought he could simply tell me that he hadn’t been doing the poster for the past three weeks because he was getting kicked out of his house and was spending time looking for jobs, unlike me, because I get to go back home blah blah blah. This would’ve had more impact if I hadn’t heard his life situation a hundred times before as off-pass remarks on anything, if he actually had a record for doing his work, if he wasn’t basically asking for me to do three week’s worth of his work in three days on top of all the work I was already doing for him, and if our friendship didn’t basically consist of me listening to him tell stories, doing him favors, and him showing me le funny maymay reddit cancer. But it didn’t, so I just did the work and that was that.

It certainly was a capstone project.

The *people* involved in had personalities and behaviors with such contrast and discord to my own that they must have been placed there by God, and to deal with them I’ve had to make some pretty big adjustments to how I act and think. They’re are all things that are really helpful to be sure, and in the future I’m sure I’ll be much more prepared to deal with significantly shittier situations. In truth, I have little problem with this teaching style, this ‘trial by fire’. I prefer learning by experience, and harsh teachers are often my favorites. But that’s not the style they claim to use, and subsequently, any criticisms I make of them they take and paint to others as unwarranted personal attacks from a mentally disturbed nobody. As such, I will give them no credit for anything that I ever do. They’ve each earned themselves a place in my memory though, just as a stovetop earns a place in a child’s reflexes.

Commencement was a pretty good first self-aware exercise at looking the top people in the face with the brightest eyes, greeting with the darkest smiles, and exchanging the greyest words.

Maybe I’ll enjoy it someday. In any case I’ll get good at it because that’s what the optimal moveset seems to include.

I’ll write the big things I learned both out of this project and college as a whole with some short stories maybe to go with them.

Can’t really say when. I’d love to say “soon” but I can’t really put any weight behind that either, and not just because setting a time limit on good pieces is bad, or because I have been writing very sparsely recently anyways. It’s because I can’t be fucked to do anything in relation to timing outside of games at the moment. Perhaps returning to daily physical and piano and go exercises will straighten things out more quickly, but I need to feel I have some control over my own life, and with all the shit I’ve had to do on other playdoh fuckers’ schedules at a minute’s notice, I can’t be fucked with applying for jobs, waiting for anything, or anything to do with anything logistical that isn’t 100% simulated and completely under my control when it’s supposed to be under my control.

Maybe this is what a rape victim feels like recounting their rape. I felt progressively worse as I wrote this. Which technically isn’t abnormal, it’s fairly common in some of the longer things I’ve written – I feel like I’m being forced to finish something that became unpleasant, but can’t go back and finish on a different point because the flow of things doesn’t work that way anymore. This “forced” being amplified by this experience going through this tragic farce of a simulated professional collaboration.

Fuck this then.

Fuck senior design too.

Fuck school, fuck university, fuck all the money that they sucked out, fuck higher education, fuck astronauts and fuck NASA, fuck them all with broomsticks and blowtorches. You want to learn the lessons I learned, learn from someone who can tell you the stories in the way you can understand. I won’t claim to be such a good writer that in my next post or three I can successfully appeal to your sensitivities in particular. But learning the hard way is called the hard way for a reason, and I think one thing everyone should learn is to read better so you can see more from lesser writers and absorb more from better ones to bypass all of this which can only be called pain and withdrawal. Originally I was supposed to be applying for jobs since January, granted I’ve had trouble with the whole “selling yourself” thing, but now I can’t really care enough to even do things that I do often enjoy doing. All I want to do is sleep, because even jacking off doesn’t feel satisfying right now.

I’ll be back when I fucking feel like it, and that means a good week after I fucking feel like it. “A good week” being approximately as long as the week God created the world.

“Then you interpret!”

Yes. Yes I do.

Freedom is not being expected to do anything in particular, and I’d an order of that right about now.

“這個世界很公平”

I guess I do have to believe the world is fair.

Doesn’t matter if it’s true, can’t really determine anyways because there’s too many variables. Between believing it and not believing it, the latter strictly saps more strength and makes improvement much more difficult, while providing basically no special advantages.

There Is No Scapegoat

仕方が無い
There Is No Scapegoat

 

 To stand atop other people… is to bear a great many responsibilities, and hand down a great many decisions. As a result, governments and organizations have different beliefs and ideals depending on their positions. People are no different. When one wishes to do something, there are inevitably some who see it as good and others who see it as evil. However, if you are able to place yourself in different positions, then all of them will appear to be right.

And… although it is sad, there may not always be a path which satisfies each and every one of their wishes… No matter what you rely on at those times, or what path you show to those below you… If you hesitate at those times… then you must have the courage to stand still and look back at how you arrived there.

And… you must never hesitate to stain your own hands with blood. Those who show others the way must not avert their eyes from the weight of responsibility.

煌武院 悠陽,マブラヴ オルタネイティブ
Yuuhi Koubuin, Muv-Luv Alternative

 

If there is a will, is there always a way? When discussing The Human Condition in class, many people found that the characters portrayed as good or nice people were actually wrongdoers because they failed to act. “Michiko’s ignorance is inexcusable”, or “Kaji could’ve done something else, earlier”. This echoed an earlier discussion of the Japanese concept of “仕方が無い”, commonly translated as “It cannot be helped”. Most who voiced their thoughts took the stance that this was very passive and fatalistic, an opinion other Westerners have shared [1][2]. “In any situation, you can do something that makes your situation better, so if you don’t do it you are responsible!” is the idea, but how realistic is this? While the Japanese may have fatalistic tendencies, their literature and reality itself make a solid case that most things cannot be helped. They attempt to take responsibility, but responsibility itself is too idealistic. Responsibility is largely an irrelevant concept: in general and in the greater scheme of thing, there really is nothing to be done.

 

The Japanese place an importance on personal responsibility; they simply also do not place too much worldly significance on it. In Japan, people do expect others to take responsibility for their actions, and do take responsibility themselves. In Ihara Saikaku’s (1642-1693) short story Hunting Early Mushrooms Sows the Seeds of Love, a man merely knowing his lover and a stranger shared a cup of sake caused him to attempt a murder-suicide [3]. This man does not consider reporting it to the authorities, or writing about it in the news, or taking it up with the stranger: he takes it upon himself, literally immediately. More recently in post-WW2 Japan, there were many people who took the emperor’s message to “bear the unbearable” to heart, and took it upon themselves to do what they could. John Dower’s Embracing Defeat retells a housewife’s story of the time, where even in the harshest of times, she does not loot or engage in other immoral activities:

Out of principle as well as poverty, the family tried to use the black market as little as possible […] [Her husband], too, began to suffer noticeably from malnutrition, his entire body beginning to swell up. The children ceased screaming and lay motionless. Only feeble cries from the newborn baby broke the silence. [4]

The Japanese famously have companies where the upper management take pay cuts and scale themselves down in times of financial hardship. Nintendo’s CEO halving his salary is a recent example: regardless of the shame vs guilt culture, a particular man made and executed a decision on himself [5]. However, these individual responsibilities aren’t treated in the same manner as responsibility in Western cultures. There is no sense that if one does something wrong, they will stand before the one omnipotent god with a checklist of their every last sin and be ultimately judged for all eternity. Similarly, each individual decision, no matter how important and no matter how dire the situation, is considered to be a choice that only affects the situation locally in both time and space. Would the CEO of Nintendo’s salary cut really change the course of a company worth over a trillion yen? Would being an amateur looter or user of the black market really have helped the housewife’s children? The Japanese find it personally important that they take the actions they do, perhaps even to an extreme. Unlike Westerners though, they do not think that the world therefore changes.

 

Humanism, the most prominent philosophy in recent history that dictates responsibility, is wholly unrealistic. Traditional responsibility for crimes only covers direct active harm, but humanism extends this to indirect passive harm. Wang, the leader of the Chinese prisoners, had a line for the literary climax of The Human Condition: No Greater Love[1] summarizes the humanist position. The impending situation in the movie was the execution of some Chinese prisoners under the watch of Kaji, our protagonist. Kaji was assigned these prisoners by the kenpeitai, the all-powerful Japanese military police, and he wanted to treat them as humanely as possible. The meaning of Wang’s statement is that if Kaji does not stop the kenpeitai from executing the Chinese prisoners accused of attempting to escape, then he will be a murderer:

You and I will both make minor mistakes. We can be forgiven if we correct them. But an error made at the crucial moment becomes an unforgivable crime. So far as I can see, your life has been a long series of errors stemming from the conflict between your work and yourself, though you’ve probably tried to correct them. But for this coming crucial moment… that moment will separate the murderers who wear the mask of humanism from those worthy of the beautiful name “human being.” [6-1]

It should first be clear that Kaji isn’t actually a murderer; he does not aid and indeed makes many different honest attempts to stop it from happening. Despite this, Wang says “And yet you do nothing?”, as if all of the actions Kaji did take might as well have not been taken. No attempt except one that actually ends up stopping the execution is good enough for Wang, only the result is important. In itself there is no problem in only evaluating results; a murderer is a murderer regardless of their reasoning. However, Kaji quite literally had nothing to do with the situation except that he was assigned to those prisoners. He did not encourage, help, plan, or tell the prisoners to escape or anger any of the mine authorities. He did certainly get more involved, but according to Wang all the things he did do up until that conversation were irrelevant because they didn’t yet stop the final conclusion. If Kaji fails to stop the executions, he is no longer a “human being”? From the time of making this movie to the present day such fleeting logic has exploded in usage, and its implications are just as nonsensical. One netizen noticed the necessary logical conclusion of pinning responsibility on those who are causing indirect passive harm in the video game industry:

>person 1 does not have money to buy $60 new VIDEO GAME
>person 1 watches the paint dry on the wall for entertainment
>person 1 contributes $0 to game dev

>person 2 does not have money to buy $60 new VIDEO GAME
>person 2 pirates game and plays game for entertainment
>person 2 contributes $0 to game dev

Person 2 contribution = Person 1 contribution.

Not playing the game and not paying hurts the dev as much as playing the game and not paying.

Using your logic every human being alive should be forced to give money to dev because otherwise they’re hurting the industry. [7]

The in-class discussion of The Human Condition showed that people do indeed think this way, namely, that Kaji’s wife Michiko was also partly at fault for the poor conditions and the executions at the mines. If Michiko, who basically never leaves the house except for errands, is responsible for occurrences at the mine where she never visited and people she’s never met, why don’t we hold some random British sergeant on the other side of the planet responsible? Supposing the story was real, you and I and Abraham Lincoln would also be “murderers” because we didn’t stop the execution. Saying that the Japanese or those with the Japanese mindset, from Kaji to Michiko, fail to be humanists is fine. But saying that they’re passive, fatalistic, and fail to be responsible is a simply not true in the slightest.

 

In the stories of The Human Condition and of Psycho-Pass, the Japanese craft a strong stance: Across all fields and schemes of life, one human is ultimately powerless.

 

Revisiting the execution scene of the Human Condition, could things really be helped either way? As Wang declared Kaji a comrade/countrymen to everyone after three executions, it’s unclear whether Kaji’s rebellion against the kenpeitai would have made a difference if he made his declaration right before the first execution, or right before the last one. More broadly, Kaji’s existence at the mines doesn’t really change the general situation for the Chinese P.O.W.s. The prostitutes were the mine president’s idea and the barbed electric fence the kenpeitai sergeant’s idea, so about the only major difference Kaji made was less whipping and occasional time outside the mines and fence. The latter activity was not shown to have any consequence except making the Chinese expect more out of Kaji, and the former saved probably as many lives as he did at the execution. That being said, those improved margins were things Kaji took pride in improving, and all he got in the end was shame from the prisoners, sent off to the military by his company, with all his work undone by the next guy that would be replacing him. Short of a high-ranking kenpeitai of Kaji’s beliefs gracing the mines with his presence and declaring something different, the situation would not have changed in any realistic way – which would be unrealistic in and of itself. In the book version of The Human Condition it’s shown that the kenpeitai sergeant was himself just a poor farmer who learned his cruel ways from the military [6-2]. How strong does one’s mind have to be to endure past such indoctrination?

 

The 2013 anime Psycho-Pass creates a similar setup with the relation between its protagonist Akane Tsunemori and her subordinates. In this post-cyberpunk world the automated Sibyl System actively determines your aptitude for everything, and largely plans out your entire life for you. One of the things the system is able to determine, based on your psychology and motives, is your potential for criminal activity. Akane joins the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division where she works with “latent criminals”, people who have been determined by the system to have a high “Crime Coefficient”. Latent criminals in this world are generally locked up with little to no contact with the outside world, but a lucky few are chosen for their detective abilities. These few instead spend their time confined to the PSB building, unless they’re out to make an arrest, in which case an entire area is sealed off by automated robots first. Even during the high-tension scenes, it is the Sibyl System which gives the final decision: the only weapons the PSB are allowed are guns called “Dominators”, which fire to stun or kill depending on the Sibyl System’s judgement, and remain locked otherwise. It is in this world that Akane, with her near-perfect aptitudes and the uncloudable color of her psycho-pass, tries to act on her idealism.

The ostensibly perfect Sibyl System is revealed to be fundamentally flawed first by the humanization of the latent criminals and then by the existence of the primary antagonist, who, standing at the other end of a Dominator, has a Crime Coefficient that drops to zero as he murders a woman. While the kenpeitai system of The Human Condition is portrayed to be largely destructive and cruel, the Sibyl System of Psycho-Pass is lauded for achieving John Stuart Mill’s “greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people”, its city the wealthiest and safest place in the world, and is intimately necessary for the fundamental logistics of the whole country. Through befriending her coworkers and the death of a few of her friends, Akane comes to despise the system. However, she cannot bring herself to support the antagonist, whose goal is to destroy the Sibyl System. Kaji had a fairly easy to criticize position in comparison, as he had to prevent the executions of seven prisoners by a single man. In opposing the Sibyl System due to its flaws, supposing she could find a way around her own personality and all the automated scanners and robots and was able to succeed, Akane would bring “the only country on Earth ruled by law” to anarchy.

You instinctively hate and emotionally detest us right now. And yet, you still cannot deny the Sibyl System’s significance and necessity. You accept the fact that the current social order cannot hold without Sibyl. You place the importance on its necessity rather than its justifiability. We highly value your standards. […] Akane Tsunemori possesses a sense of purpose that is shared by the Sibyl System. Hence, we decided that the chance that you’d reveal our secrets and endanger the system is infinitely small. [8]

Supposing Akane did choose to oppose the Sibyl System, more likely than not she would simply get eliminated and then replaced. The world would continue on.

The one person that does almost make major changes is the antagonist, Shougo Makishima. His special “Criminally Asymptomatic” personality allows him to evade scanners to set up and execute elaborate plans, but as the series continues and his plans get more and more devastating, the character himself is actually revealed to be less and less powerful. In the final episodes, though the setup and the motives of all characters are made clear and reasonable, the most crucial of events are shown to be results of chance. The final fight is a knife fight between the story’s main latent criminal and Makishima where the main character happens to win. By their nature, knife fights cannot be trained for and are highly variable as every cut could be the last, so this is plausible [9]. Shortly after in another location, Makishima attempts to shoot Akane, but the gun is out of bullets, as five shots were shown earlier in the episode and no reload had occurred by the only person who possessed bullets [10]. From the standard narrative structure of “main character trains harder and has more willpower than the enemy, therefore the main character wins no matter what”, what occurs in Psycho-Pass amounts to deus ex machina. Every instance is nonetheless believable. Every character did what they could in accord with their means and beliefs, and as with The Human Condition this is one of Psycho-Pass’s strongest points. The Japanese posit that one’s means and beliefs do not alone determine the outcome of a situation; that most things affecting your life are out of your control. These modern cinematic stories echo the more ancient and traditional book Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, often referred to as the Book of the Samurai: You can only do your best.

It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one’s aim is to die a dog’s death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one’s aim. [11-1]

There is a saying that goes, “No matter what the circumstances might be, one should be of the mind to win. One should be holding the first spear to strike.” Even though you have put your life on the line, there is nothing to be done when the situation doesn’t go as planned. [11-2]

 

As Hagakure is a book for samurai, often they would only be able to make the one final choice, but even in less lethal circumstances the 仕方が無いway of thinking is not unrealistic. As Americans the individualist culture is as common to us as the air we breathe, but how often do Americans take personal responsibility and go against the grain? As the accusation is that Japanese don’t do it enough, do Americans do it more often than the Japanese? From the 1600’s writings of Saikaku to the 2013 anime Psycho-Pass, it is fairly clear that the Japanese admire taking individual responsibility at least as much as Americans do. They do their best, but don’t expect that the world will change because of it. There are powers in existence greater than our individual wills, many whose existence we cannot fathom and whose extent we cannot imagine. Taking into account such powers and the infinitely detailed logistical proceedings that consist of real life, the mindset of 仕方が無い arose. Those crucial differences make the Japanese attitude much more pragmatic.

 

Cited Works

[1] Hugh Cortazi, “The curse of ‘shikata ga nai’”, The Japan Times, April 16, 2001. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/author/int-hugh_cortazzi/

[2] Robert Neff, “Japan Explained”, Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct 29, 2000. http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2000-10-29/japan-explained

[3] Ihara Saikaku, “Hunting Early Mushrooms Sows the Seeds of Love”, trans. David Gundry.

[4] John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat (New York: Norton, 2000). pg. 102

[5] Ryan Fleming, “Nintendo’s CEO Takes 50-Percent Pay Cut Following Poor Earnings”, Digital Trends, Jan 29, 2014. http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/nintendos-ceo-takes-50-percent-pay-cut/

[6] James J. Orr, The Victim as Hero (Hawaii: University of Hawaii, 2001). pg. 120, pg. 124

[7] korezaan, “Mar 22”, Lines, Mar 22, 2014.  http://korezaan.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/mar-22/

[8] Psycho-Pass, Ep 17 – “Iron Heart”. Dir. Naoyoshi Shiotani, Writ. Gen Urobochi, Makoto Fukami. Production I.G., 2013.

[9] “Knife fighting lies”, No Nonsense Self-Defense http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/knifelies.html

[10] “Fridge: Psycho-Pass”, TVTropes. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Fridge/PsychoPass

[11] Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure, trans. William Scott Wilson (Boston: Shambala, 2012). pg. 3, pg. 145

Update of an older post.

Favorite ten (types of) characters in fiction:

1. Shogo Makishima / Izaya Orihara /Lelouch Lamperouge / Light Yagami
2. Erika Furudo / Rorschach
3. Meiya Mitsurugi / Saeko Busujima / Kazusa Touma / Tomoyo Sakagami
4. April Ryan / Masami Iwasawa / Homura Akemi / Yomi Isayama / Rika Furude
5. Haruka Morishima
6. Akane Tsunemori / Tomomi Masaoka /Age
7. Kamina / Mikoto Shinozaki
8. Gendou Ikari / Charles zi Britannia / Kinzo Ushiromiya
9. Airs Blue / Yuki Aiba
0. Yuuko Kouzuki / CC / Admiral Spoor

Interpretations have one change, at #6, and extensions at #5 and #0:

1. This Is Not My World
2. Truth is God, This is His Message
3. Honorable, Out of Place
4. The Sufferer
5. Single-Minded Love
6. The Show Must Go On
7. Infinite Energy
8. This Is My World
9. Reason Once, Reason No More
0. Playing With Knowledge

Probably says something that my favorite male characters are all crazy psychopaths who can manipulate the world in ways most people don’t even think of (1). And that all my favorite female characters are loyal through lies and death (3).

I have nothing against characters of the other sex fulfilling those “same roles”, but I’d see them as something different. A woman as a “crazy psychopath” I’d see simply as someone who plays with knowledge (10), while a male with that sort of loyalty would simply be a samurai (7).