Bad Buddhist: I don’t like prostration

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Published on: July 23, 2015

I was looking at some photos taken at a recent festival at Bodghaya and one of them were of the boards used by people making multiple prostrations. I’ve meditated with people who similarly, although less frequently, prostrate themselves. I never prostrate myself.

I understand many of the reasons for prostration but it never feels like anything other than an ostentatious display when public and a meaningless gesture when private. I’m sure that’s part of my western upbringing. Looking at the common rationals for prostration, it isn’t surprising that I’m not inclined to bow my head and bend my back: accumulation of merit, veneration of the Buddha, cultivating humility / negating pride.

The accumulation of merit has always struck me as a very simplistic way to get people to do good things when they might not otherwise be disposed to it. The performance of good deeds in the hopes of a better reincarnation smacks of the belief in something that is actually reincarnated. This runs counter to my own belief that I’m simply a temporary confluence of flesh, mind, thought and experience; that what lives on after I die are simply the echos and ripples of my thoughts and actions, not me. Good deeds aren’t for me, they’re for other people and if that moves the needle on the cosmic balance enough that I benefit indirectly, that’s my better life. Not the next life, this one.

Venerating the Buddha is similarly not a strong motivation to bow. Bowing before someone or some thing to venerate it just isn’t a big part of my cultural experience. My view of Siddhartha Gautama is closer to how a basketball fan might view Michael Jordan. I recognize the accomplishment and feel the desire to emulate it but, just as most basketball fans don’t bow to effigies of Jordan. My veneration takes the form of reaffirming my commitment and taking refuge.

Finally, the real reason I don’t want to prostrate myself is that I don’t want to bow my head or bend my back for anyone. I’m not vain but I am prideful. I should bow for no other reason than to cultivate humility. The trap there is when does prostration stop being an exercise in humility and become a display.

Snowpocalypse 2014: The Homecoming

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Published on: July 23, 2015

Getting from the airport to the house yesterday was… interesting. First I had to identify my car among all the other lumps of snow in the economy lot. This consisted of wading in knee deep snow, up and down the rows in the general area of where I remembered parking and listening for the muffled chirp from my car alarm as I repeatedly enabled and disabled it…

Once I’d dug out the driver’s side door I began my fervent appeals to any deity which both existed and might be listening that the thing would start or I’d be wading back to the terminal to try to get a cab. Thanks to a hastily cobbled together “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” deal with Nyarlothotep, the car started, allowing me to put it into a half hour defrost cycle while a dug it out with a hastily modified cardboard box I’d been meaning to recycle.

After some digging and scraping I had most of the snow off the machine and had managed to chip through enough ice that I could see out the windshield and the sides. At this point a plume of steam was coming off my body from a combination of exercise and cold. Time to hit the road.

I say road in the loosest possible terms since what I was driving on was a raised platform of packed snow and ice with Arkansas storm drains on either side i.e. a ditch. I couldn’t actually see the ditches since they were filled with snow but the occasional car trunk projecting from the snow like some long buried Easter Island monolith assured me that they were there.

 

Player stats and min/maxing

Categories: Game Design, Gaming
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Published on: July 23, 2015

One of the things I noticed when playing Diablo 3 is that you no longer allocate points to stats when you level up. The justification for that for Diablo 3 makes perfect sense i.e. that players would identify the optimum stats for their class and then stack their main stat and their HP stat and leave everything else as a dump stat. That is exactly what happened in Diablo 2 and Blizzard learned that lesson well. Stats allocation was made redundant by the game mechanics that tied class abilities to one or two stats.

The problem I have with this is that it is ultimately uninteresting. There is no down side for a tank who is only slightly smarter than a bowl of oatmeal, he’s there to act as a meat shield and the player who’s driving him isn’t made dumber by his stats selection. Therefore, all tanks stack endurance, all rogues stack agility, all mages stack intelligence, all prists stack wisdom and all dps warriors stack strength with everyone stacking just enough endurance that they don’t fold when some mob gives them a dirty look.

Min/maxing has become the rule in MMOs because the various stats are so strongly bound to a particular class. Take agility for example. It’s generally the rogue / melee dps stat because it increases avoidance and chance to crit for melee. There is no reason why a mage or priest type character would put a single point in agility. It simply doesn’t affect any of their mechanics. Fast forward to end game and people start complaining when gear has stats that are not optimized for min/maxing a particular class. Why would heavy armor have wisdom or leather gloves intelligence? The gear does not allow players to optimally min/max for a particular role and so players feel cheated looking at those points ‘wasted’ on a stat that they are not stacking. The end result is that gear is designed to reinforce min/maxing and stacking primary role stats and the game loses a degree of freedom.

Ideally, I think that stats should play a more diverse role in game mechanics than they currently do. Players could continue to build the dumb, clumsy brute of a tank but a more interesting system would make that a challenging path to walk. Consider the following stats effects

Strength –
Primary effect: modifies melee damage
Secondary effect: modifies the number of bag slots available

Intelligence –
Primary effect: modifies spell damage and chance to crit
Secondary effect: modifies experience gain

Wisdom –
Primary effect: modifies mana pool
Secondary effect: modifies spell and stun resistance

Endurance:
Primary effect: modifies health
Secondary effect: modifies resistance to status effects like slows, roots

Agility:
Primary effect: modifies avoidance and melee crit chance
Secondary effect: modifies movement speed

Charisma:
Primary effect: modifies reputation gain
Secondary effect: modifies NPC interactions and quest rewards

This adds only a single secondary effect to each stat but the effect is wide ranging. Our dumb brute of a tank who stacks nothing but strength and endurance will be slow to level, vulnerable to spell damage, moves slowly, is vulnerable to stuns and generally has a bad time attempting to gain reputation with NPC factions and gets the short end of the stick on quest rewards.

This is only a simple example intended to illustrate how even a minor change to how stats affect game mechanics opens the door for more player choice. Players are presented with choices and trade offs, do they increase melee damage at the expense of experience gain? Will that improved damage translate into a faster kill rate and thus offset the lower xp/kill ratio? Suddenly, a few points of intelligence on heavy armor doesn’t seem like such a waste.

Antisocial again

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Published on: June 17, 2014

I’m taking another break from social media, Facebook in particular, because I keep mistaking people making claims and posting links to political and social activism as an invitation to discussion. It’s regrettable as FB is the primary way in which I communicate with my brother now that we’re not playing Star Wars The Old Republic together anymore.

There’s never a can of spinach around when you need one

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Published on: January 6, 2014

I try to stay away from facebook but it’s simply too good of a tool for staying in touch with people. The problem is that it’s a really easy way to stay in touch with people and is turning into a means of broadcasting opinions on subjects which, honestly, are forbidden from polite conversation for a reason.

I read and I hold my tongue. People I love and respect say things that I would absolutely refuse to pass unchallenged over dinner or a beer and I hold my tongue. People a know tangentially say things which would get them stabbed with a butter knife if they had been spoken in my presence and I hold my tongue. And then I can’t hold my tongue anymore. I’ve had all I can stand and I can’t stand no more.

The problem is that my outbursts are making a wreck of my wife’s friendships and she’s pleaded with me to start writing in a blog rather than continue to ensure that we will die friendless and alone. I’ve never been good at listening to someone say something stupid and then go off and write a blog post about it. I tend to get into people’s faces. It somehow feels more honest. But, for the love I hold for my wife and for her mental well being, I’ll again try to redirect my spleen here rather than use it to power my low orbit ridicule cannon.

Oh that’s not right…

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Published on: November 12, 2013

flyinganimals-14So another Halloween has come and gone. Our 13th wedding anniversary was a success. The wife has a new job that she loves and the kid has a new school that she also loves (although the homework slightly less so). I reconnected with my brother and we’ve been playing SWTOR and talking over mumble. We’re starting what is probably one of the more politically incorrect guilds in recent memory so be sure to look for us on Anita Sarkeesian’s blog, Jezebel, and the View in the coming months as we attempt to explain that it’s all in fun and what the British mean by “taking the piss”. Our oven dying an untimely death by thunderstorm right before Thanksgiving notwithstanding, things are good.

As I pack away and make minor repairs on my Halloween decorations it’s also time to start coming up with ideas for next year. I need to redo my graveyard fence, not so much because it is need of repair but that it can be improved. I don’t think I can reattach the head to “the guy” who I had hung from a gibbet in the front yard. He’s been hanging from a tree limb or a gibbet for about five years now and a windstorm finally popped his head off. I could probably reattach the head but I’d never be able to hang him from it again.

Now the gibbet is very simple construction: two 4x4s in a slightly offcenter ‘T’ formation. Nothing special but great for hanging a body from. I like the hanged man idea and I’m cheap so the first thing that occurs to me is that I can still hang him from the gibbet. I just need to make it a nice even ‘T’ and then tie his arms to the crossbars with the rope he’d formerly been hung with. Simple…

And then I remember where I live. I’m contemplating putting what can only be considered a crucified skeleton in my front yard. Yeah, no way someone can take that the wrong way.

 

Frustration and mining

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Published on: February 28, 2013

2013.02.26.14.03.28-a After rejoining EVE I spent the last week getting my space legs back, catching up on what’s been happening and looking for a new corp. Exploration is proving to be a little more profitable than I remember with a number of anomalies to exploit and highsec Omber / Jaspet asteroid fields to mine out.

A lot of the pilots I’ve talked with look at scanning as a necessary evil in order to locate anomalies, wormholes other ships hiding in the dark of space but I’ve always found it to be a relaxing activity. Just drop probes, jump to a safe point in empty space, cloak, and start hunting snarks.

So far it’s been pretty profitable. I’m not in nullsec or w-space so the profits aren’t astronomical but in the last week I’ve pulled in enough to buy a new Hulk for when I feel like mining and fit it with a decent T2 tank for when the hulk hunters show up. A couple more days and I’ll be able to field a swarm of T2 drones which should make me a less tempting target. I hated getting up for a quick bio break only to come hear the horrible alert indicating that attackers have burned through shield, armor and are chewing away at my ship’s hull.

Exploration does have it’s annoyances, however. After scanning down and looting a particularly nice Radar site I was pinning down the location of the last signature on my list. A few scans and I was down to a 1AU scan radius and it has still refused to resolve so I knew it was going to be something interesting. Sure enough, another Radar site but the Explorodrake couldn’t get it to resolve with seven probes in space and a 0.25AU scan radius. In the words of Tim Taylor, I needed more power.

2013.02.26.14.31.34-b

 

Fortunately, I still had my scanning frigate. After docking at my home base and switching to the Resonator I decided to fit a pair of Small Gravity Capacitor Upgrade rigs for just that little extra oomph. I now had a 30% boost to scan probe strength from the Resonator and another 20% from the new rigs. That radar signature was mine.

Or so I thought.

2013.02.26.14.56.58-a

It’s not like I slacked on training my exploration skills. Sure, I don’t have them all at level 5 but with a 5 in Astrometrics, a 4 in Astrometric Rangefinding, a 4 in Astrometric Pinpointing and a rigged exploration frigate I should have been able to scan down anything in high security space. I don’t know what was in that radar site but like Fat Bastard and babies, I really wanted it in my cargo hold.

 

Doctor Praetorius flies again

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Published on: February 23, 2013

After a brief return to Star Wars: The Old Republic to play with Emily I realized just how tired I was of the whole themepark game model. Same as before, static game world, static story, static gameplay. I’ve been following CCP’s merger with White Wolf and their plans for a World of Darkness MMO for a while now which got me thinking about EVE again. I’ll still play SWTOR with Emily as F2P when she wants to but for my own game time it’s back to playing in the sandbox with internet spaceships.

2013.02.23.15.13.20-a

After reconnecting getting back into things I started where I’d left off with a little exploration. Bounced around Lonetrek and scanned down a low rent pirate complex and, surprisingly, a pair of ladar sites. I can’t say I’d ever seen gas mining sites outside of wormhole space and 0.0 before so I was more than a little surprised. One I probably would have ignored but ignoring two was like ignoring a burning bush that sang a song about free money.

So what did I need to get started with gas mining? Well there was the 30M ISK skillbook to start with. Pricey but not a huge hit to my wallet. Next up were a pair of cloud harvesters at another 3M each. Then came the realization that I can’t fit them to the Explorodrake. D’oh! Need a boat with turret hardpoints so I locate my Hulk which is parked a few systems away. A few jumps later and I learn I can’t fit the gas harvesters to a mining barge either. I guess they’re serious when they mean those strip miner slots are strip miner only.

At this point I’m beginning to question whether this was a good idea but decided that I’d succumb to the sunk cost fallacy and forge ahead by buying a new hull. Osprey acquired. Not too small and has some decent mining bonuses.

Or at least it used to. Apparently CCP revamped a lot of ships in the last year and completely reset the Osprey from a mining cruiser to a low rent fleet support boat. Damn thing has only one turret hardpoint now. This is really starting to look like a losing proposition but I forge onward and fit some random crap to the cruiser, jump to the gas site and start mining while I do the research I should have done first.

2013.02.23.15.29.04-b

Thirty minutes later I’ve picked up one of the new Venture mining frigates, fitted it with the gas miners, put the pointless Osprey hull back up for sale and I’m happily strip mining nebulae. I’m still down by close to 40M but I’ll have to console myself with the fact that lessons and skills have been learned, a ship fitted and I now have the ability to exploit the one exploration site that I previously had to ignore.

Now I just need to mine 40M in gas…

The Universe Plots Against Me. Again.

Categories: Journal, Life
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Published on: February 7, 2013

So immediately following my fresh start with exercise and organization of my life, I come down with what has literally been the worst case of flu I’ve had in decades. I missed almost a week of work and two weeks after it began I still have a persistent cough. I can’t say it’s the worst case of the flu I’ve ever had since it didn’t almost kill me like that one time when I was a kid where my temperature shot up to 106 and I had to be put into a bathtub full of cold water.

I still remember the hallucinations from that day. Bats, a tree growing in my room and falling on me, the ceiling suddenly dropping to crush me. Generally a bad time all the way around. My stepfather didn’t help since he only knew that you kept sick people in bed so when I’d throw off the covers in an attempt to allow my body to cool down he’d put them back and pile on another blanket because I was shivering. The man meant well but wasn’t really thinking. The doctor was convinced that I lost about twenty IQ points that day as my brain slowly cooked itself.

The weather is warming up again and thoughts of yard work and gardening are starting to creep in. I have a whole list of things I’d like to get done this spring and I think that with regular effort I might actually get the back yard whipped into shape. For the most part if just cleaning up areas where I’d let the maintenance go. Corners that have accumulated detritus and gone to seed, flower beds taken over by unpruned bushes gone wild, that sort of thing. I still have no idea how I’m going to get rid of the moles.

Game on

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Published on: January 18, 2013

fitocracyIt being a new year I thought about doing the standard resolution thing but that’s never really worked for me. I stick with things for about a month and then slide back into my old habits. A couple years ago I’d talked with my friend Clint regarding reframing lifestyle and fitness goals as a game but my initial implementation lacked the feedback mechanisms of a true game so it didn’t kick off the usual OCD obsessiveness with which I approach accumulating achievements in the various MMOs I’ve played. I’d created my own Achievements page but, again, didn’t have the feedback mechanisms in place to motivate my inner, lever pushing, monkey.

A few days ago, Jyllian, wonderful woman that she is, pointed me at HabitRPG. Someone else had a similar idea but implemented it in a much better way. The reddit thread on it also reminded me of Fitocracy which has a similar level/achievement based approach motivation so I spent some time today at lunch setting both up. HabitRPG will be used to gamify behaviors that I want to promote and avoid while Fitocracy will be used to deal specifically with the physical fitness and diet goals.

Lets see if the habits developed in decades of gaming can drive changes in Real Life.

//also, i get xp for blogging :)

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