Incredibly Cool Site for Writers…

Here we have fictional characters from various famous novels rendered pictorally by police artists.

Published in: on February 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Mom! You’re Breaking the 4th Wall!”

I have a friend, Becky — (Hi, Becky!) — who describes herself as an ex-hippie.  She dislikes representations of violence, and wouldn’t buy her son video games.

Becky told me today that when he was old enough, her son bought a copy of “Grand Auto Theft.”  She could hear it and wasn’t too happy about it, but it wasn’t against the rules and she let it slide.

Then one day, he had his high-school friends over.  They were all playing Grand Theft Auto, and laughing in a rowdy way.  So she decided she had to do something.

She went to the room.  On the TV there was a little old lady crossing the street.  Her son was at the controls, and he ran her over.  And all the kids laughed.

Becky demanded, “Did you just run that lady over?  Why would you do that to her?  You probably killed her!”  — and continued in this way for about fifteen minutes, as they passed the controller around.

Finally, her son turned it off and said, “Ok, ok, will you just go?”

Published in: on November 3, 2010 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jumping Conclusions Scientifically: Reading IF Reviews

As a boy, when I learned the difference between induction and deduction, I was deeply impressed, and went looking for instruction on how to do induction.  Everybody knows how to do deduction:  Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal.  — But where do you get the rules?

You get them, of course, from induction.  But all the material I found on induction was really stupid.  One explained that, you look at Mercury and determine it’s sphereoidal; and at Venus, and determine it’s sphereoidal; and so on to Pluto; and from this you determine “inductively” that all planets are sphereoidal.

Which is useless, of course.

John Stuart Mill, of intro philosophy course fame for his ethical theory, identified and formalized the rules we intuitively use to work from specific cases to general ones.  Get good at them and you can work with fuzzy, non-quantifiable data scientifically. 

These are the basic rules that Jared Diamond used to organize his historical observations in Guns, Germs, and Steel.  I’m writing them up to encourage you to use them for cross-comparison of IF Comp reviews this year.

Key.  We’ll have A, B, C, D, E, F, G refer to properties of the game being reviewed, and t, u, v, w, x, y, z refer to opinions of the reviewer.  The question is, what game properties reliably elicit what reviewer opinions. (more…)

What is good in IF?

Can a work be good but unpopular?

Most of us think so.  Victor G. has recently raised the shades of Homer and James Joyce to defend this notion.  But it raises questions about how we can measure a work’s goodness.

The IF Comp is great, because it allows us to rate works against one another.  We know then how good a certain work is, in the Comp-playing public eye.  But if we conceed to Victor that a work can be good, but unpopular, then all bets are off:  especially if we also accept that a work can be popular, but bad.

Now, I’ll make an ugly little confession:  I really don’t care for _Ulysses._  Not much for the _Illiad_, either, although bits of it I quite enjoy.  Maybe I’ll change my opinion when I’m an old man; presuming I should be so lucky. (more…)

Published in: on November 13, 2009 at 9:25 am  Comments (6)  
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Mill’s Methods (toward insight)

John Stuart Mill is known for his creation of the ethical system of utilitarianism.  The basic idea of utilitarianism is that an action is good (it has utility) to the extent it makes people happy.  There follows a complicated bit of hand-waving whereby happiness is (conceptually) measured and actions are ranked by the predicted amount of happiness they will produce in sum across the population.

What J. S. Mill is not known as well for are his rules for inductive reasoning.  And that’s a shame, because induction is a remarkably important part of the reasoning process, and it’s usually not taught at all, or taught badly. (more…)

Published in: on July 9, 2009 at 11:31 am  Comments (3)  
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