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Forum: So what do you do? Why do you do it?
Bacteriophage
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Apparently, this post turned out rather longer than I expected it to, so if you want to get to the good stuff, see the last two paragraphs.

Well, let's start with where I am now. I am a high school student at the moment, primarily because I don't want to be a high school dropout. The four "basic" subjects my curriculum has been centered around since elementary school will now become the topic of my next paragraphs.

Mathematics is an absolutely excellent subject and one of my favorites. I love the beautiful elegance, the unrestricted possibilities, the use of deductive reasoning to prove something not thought possible. Interestingly, however, I dislike math classes. The primary reason for this is that all of them seem to treat mathematics as a mechanical process. Follow these steps, perform these manipulations, and write your answer on this sheet of paper. If you did not make any mistakes, your grade will improve marginally. If you did, a large red x will be placed through your paper. I also dislike it when they try to make mathematics "useful". John and Joe are measuring the size of their lawn. They must use trigonometry to measure the area. The truth is, John and Joe will probably just measure that unknown side of their lawn, rather than looking at proportions and angles. Unless they are professional surveyors, they will probably never use trigonometry for their lawn measurements. It feels like mathematics is apologizing for itself and trying to make itself "cool" so that high school students want to study it. It doesn't need to be cool. Trigonometry is fascinating and should be studied for its own sake, not because John and Joe need it to measure their lawn.

History is also fascinating to me. Trying to piece together the cultural, military, political, and economic factors that drive historical events is very fun. There's not much else to say here, I guess.

English. My least favorite and worst subject. If anyone could help explain what this is and why I hate it, please do so. I am sure it is an absolutely wonderful subject, and I just don't understand it. Alright, now to the rant. My dislike of English centers around 2 areas, literary analysis and writing.

My dislike of literary analysis starts with the books it analyzes. My problem with the "classics" I have read is that their writing is almost too good. I am immersed immediately into the book's world, and sympathize with its characters. Then, inevitably, some tragedy happens. Someone dies. Someone loses their innocence. It seems that if a book has a generally happy outlook, it is automatically disqualified from being a "classic". So we end up with books like Lord of the Flies. I end up sympathizing so much with the book that when the inevitable tragedy comes, I end up being terribly depressed for days. It seems most of my classmates dislike classics because they are too "boring" while I dislike them for the grip the create on my mind and then the things they do with it once they have it in their possession.

Then comes the analysis. We are supposed to take a philosophically complicated book, whose interpretations have been debated among literature-studying people for decades, and explain the motivation of character A for doing some act in a 2-page paper. My problem is that I cannot decide on a single factor. The characters are too complicated, too human , for me to analyze in a few words. For every explanation I think of, I can think of an equally good counter-explanation. Yet I must produce a "thesis" and defend it, despite the fact that every thesis I create has an argument that can bring it to its knees. I have dozens of alternate explanations that I must reduce to one and fill in some blank on some test, as if there was only one right answer. If literature people have been debating it for decades, how is a high-school English student supposed to come any closer than them? Then there are some teachers who are even worse: they give their explanation and treat it as law, which we are supposed to write an essay on and defend, even if we don't believe in it! If having to select one explanation among dozens was bad, being force-fed an explanation is far worse. And then other times, they require you to "explain the significance of" some spurious detail that is supposed to be a "symbol" of some sort, when I honestly think the detail is really not significant at all. There are some fire hydrants that are just fire hydrants, not symbols of man's dominance over nature or lost innocence or war or love or anything else.

Then there is writing. Many of my problems with writing are explained in the analysis section. I have dozens of opinions on issues and can never condense them into a single argument. I am just too good at finding holes and flaws in my arguments. Once I was asked to write a definition of heroism in an hour and a half. How could I condense all the different ideals of heroism and put it into one little sentence? I would have to leave out many people traditionally thought of as heroes. Is it heroic to die for an evil person? Is it heroic to die for an idea that one believes in? What about an idea that one does not believe in? Is a crusader whose intentions are pure who ends up hacking every chair to pieces because the person thinks they are aliens in disguise heroic? Is it heroic to sacrifice an individual for the sake of humankind? What if there was a lovely, lovable, good president who was easily swayed and could be convinced to start a planet-destroying nuclear war? Is it heroic to kill them? What about a hero who saves people for money or fame? Is a soldier heroic? A firefighter? A doctor? A janitor? A receptionist? Is lying to protect someone's feelings heroic? Is hurting someone's feelings for the sake of not lying heroic? How can I even begin to define heroism with all these unresolved questions to answer?

Not only that, it asked me to give an example. Now for me, heroism, whatever it is, is dependent on intent. A person who is trying to kill person A, misses, and accidentally shoots person B who is also trying to kill A, thus saving A's life, is not a hero. Nor is someone who saves a lady from train tracks because they want publicity. Because I cannot determine someone's true intent, I cannot give any examples. How am I supposed to answer the question if I can do neither of the things it is asking me to do?

Sorry for the length; I had no idea this would turn into a mini-rant. I suppose I just have a problem with English. Again, if someone would explain my situation and what real English is like (just like real math is not what they teach in school), I would be greatly appreciative.

And, lastly, science. I love science for much of the same reasons I love math, and feel it has been corrupted by the educational system in the same way. We are drilled from day 1 that "Science is a process." That process is explained to be the scientific method, a series of steps for conducting experiments. Formulate a question. Research. Come up with an answer to your question. Create a test for that answer. Perform the experiment. Decide if your answer is right or not. Share it with the rest of the world. In my opinion, this is not how science works at all. Some of the greatest science in history was done without an express purpose in mind. Much is done without conducting any experiments at all, using just a logical argument. The deeper problem with this reasoning is that it limits science to what can be measured. I feel this places a terrible limitation on what can be studied. We can't perform an experiment to discover information about the inside of a black hole, but the mathematical calculations explained therein can lead us to new insights about the observable universe. The scientific method and the whole "scientific reasoning" idea was created to put science in a neat little box so people could say "We are Scientists. We are not theologians, not philosophers, not pseudoscientists. We are Scientists, and we are better than them." Yet in real life, it is not so distinct. The famed Occam's razor does not always apply. If it did, my simplest explanation for what I see is that all that exists in the universe is a floating brain (mine) with all my memories and thoughts that will continue to work for a few seconds and then die. Science is more than the sum of a series of experiments. Some of the most fascinating current research in science, quantum gravitational research, is not based on any experiment but on a philosophical idea the the universe should have one set of laws describing it.

Wow. It seems my innocent attempt to explain how I feel about school subjects has created an enormous post on the forums by itself, composed of 3 mini-rants. Anyway, here is the answer to the question of where I want to study and work and why.

As far as studying at a university, my plan is to major in physics and minor in mathematics, with a significant interest in philosophy, history, and other science. I plan to use my undergraduate years to explore topics of interest to me and "expand my mind" rather than simply studying my chosen field. Then I would go on to get a doctorate in physics.

My greatest dream is to become a theoretical physicist. I would work primarily on quantum gravitational research, spending my days sitting at a computer, calculating and theorizing. My reason is because I am fascinated by the subject, almost to the point of obsession. It started when I was 11 and found a copy of The Elegant Universe , a popular treatment of string theory, under a table in our living room. I am currently working on the higher mathematics necessary to understand these theories and see if the mathematics of these theories excites me as much as the concepts. Hopefully I will be able to someday fulfill my dream, though there is a high probability I will change career paths at some point. Anyway, for now at least I can still keep my unrealistic fantasies.

And just after setting a personal record for my longest post, I broke it. Sorry for making you listen to my rambling and ranting.
Game: MARDEK RPG: Chapter 2
Bacteriophage
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Bacteriophage 19 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic INTP 5w4 93C
First of all, there is a lovely walkthrough on Kongregate at ∞ LINK ∞ The information you seek is in the "To Canonia!" section of the chapter 2 section. If that does not help, then feel free to make another post with your party, levels, and mastered active skills. Then I could give more detailed advice. This is generally considered a very hard battle, so it's understandable that you are having trouble with it.
Forum: Random People Poll by CtG, Week 24
Bacteriophage
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Hmm...

I generally feel similarly to some of the others that posted in that I generally act in the best interests of others and feel horrible when I don't. I try to never hurt someone's feelings, I help others on their homework, I never retaliate any injury I receive, etc. I have a fear of offending others or making someone suffer. However, this does not extend beyond people I have met. I always try to be nice to others, but I feel no guilt when I use my $10 to buy a computer game instead of donating it to some charity to help a poor starving child in Africa whose sufferings do not begin to compare to my own. If that child was in front of me when I made my purchase, there is no way I would spend my money on anything other than food for them. But since they are only an abstract concern, I guess I don't experience the full force of empathy. Of course, if I did, I would probably go insane from the knowledge that so many people were suffering and that I was powerless to help them. I plan (when I have a job) to give money to charity as much as the next person, but not to the point where I would be a bit hungry. Does this make me a bad person? Probably. Why does the person who needs a little math help get 30 minutes of my time but the person who is starving and about to die get nothing simply because I do not see them? Of course, to people that I can see, or even people somewhat close to me like the cleanup staff at a restaurant, I try to help them even when it inconveniences me. But I have never worried about throwing sharp objects away in the trash to prevent some person I have never met from getting cut.

I remember congratulating myself as a small child on how nice I was, given that I would sacrifice myself to save a stranger. Then I realized with a shock that the only reason I would do that is that I would go to heaven at the end. If I was sacrificing not just my body but my soul, and was going to spend an eternity in hell to save another from the same experience, I would not do it even for my closest friend. To use another example, if there was some artifact in some cave somewhere that turned anyone who looked at it to stone for eternity (but it could only do this once) and there was no way to block access to the cave, I would not look at it to save another clueless person from the same fate. I suppose I'm self-sacrificial enough in small matters, but I am utterly selfish on larger issues.

So I suppose I choose option 2 for people I know (or at least are easily imaginable to me) and relatively minor inconveniences, and option 1 for everything else. Thus, I voted for option 1. Hooray for selfishness! Now I feel really bad about myself...
Forum: Needless nobility
Bacteriophage
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I think the root of the problem is the human love for gossip. Watching sex scandals, drug scandals, hints of romance, immense charitable gifts, deaths, births, etc. is interesting. The media knows this. However, there are very few times when a sex scandal (for example) is actually important. If a major world leader is molesting little boys by the dozens and is removed from power to serve in jail, it is important. Yet this happens so rarely I cannot think of a single example. So the media attach importance to these otherwise trivial things. Unfortunately, they cannot do this to just anyone. "Did you hear that John Smith, Richard Evans, Charles Brown, George Hansen and 10,000 other people had affairs today?" does not make for an interesting story. So they take insignificant people with a claim to fame and look for gossip. Nobles, with the imposing "Count" or "Lord" or "Duke" in front of their titles instantly create a "Ooh, this person is important" effect.

Unfortunately, there is little we can do about this, because the basic love of gossip is its source. We aren't really interested in the fact that they are nobility. We just want to know the intimate details of the alleged rape charges.
Forum: Lesbian, Bi, Or Straight
Bacteriophage
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Bacteriophage 19 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic INTP 5w4 93C
Interesting point about stereotypes. In kindergarten, I liked (and still do) pink and rainbows. It was only much later that I realized why my kindergarten teacher hated me: she thought I was gay! My mother later told me that my teacher related, in a shocked, horrified tone, "His favorite colors are pink and purple!". I find it interesting that homophobia can be harmful even to people who have never had and probably never will have attractions to people of the same gender.

It's kind of annoying that people seem to view these things as exclusively female or gay pursuits. For a time, I actually thought being female would be a better "fit" for me because the stereotypes were more accurate (thank God I convinced myself that being male was better because of not having to sit on dirty toilet seats for my urination or I would probably have gender identity issues). In a more general sense, my mother suffered the same fate in that she was not "girlish" enough and was not fully accepted by her mother as a result (not because of potential homosexuality, but because she did not live up to her mother's expectations of parenting a girl.) The whole "girls play with girl toys and boys play with boy toys and if you don't automatically conform to the stereotypes you're gay" thing is just far too simplistic a view of human gender. Now it seems my brother may suffer the same fate I did in kindergarten, just because he likes hugging, wearing dresses, and the color pink. Such is the cruelty of the world.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my ramblings that are only tangentially related to the post above.
Forum: I was looking for a good computer RPG...
Bacteriophage
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Thanks to everyone who posted here! I'll probably be using your ideas for quite some time. I ultimately decided to buy Planscape: Torment and am enjoying it immensely. Its story and gameplay are certainly much more gratifying and deep than the standard flash "Shoot ice balls out of a cannon to knock evil penguins off the screen without killing the good ones". Finally, I have something that makes me think (other than MARDEK, of course).

Sorry for the late reply; various circumstances delayed the purchase to yesterday. Thanks again!
Forum: Random People Poll by CtG, Week 23
Bacteriophage
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Ooh, luck! How exciting! I will now proceed to examine the issue from several different angles.

Statistical:

If one flips a fair coin long enough, one will eventually get 30 heads in a row. If heads was desirable, such a result would be considered lucky. The probability of any one sequence of 30 tosses being all heads is very low (1/1,073,741,824, the same as any other sequence of heads and tails), but it is still possible. Fair coins have no memory and are still have a 50% probability of landing on each side no matter how "lucky" they have been in the past. If everyone on the planet flipped a fair coin 30 times, there would be an average of about 7 all-heads coin tosses each day. If events work like coin tosses, some people would seem very lucky just due to random chance. Also, if every person undergoes many metaphorical coin flips every day, they would have events in their life which, considered in isolation, are improbable, but when combined, the occurrence of at least one becomes likely. This is a common bias in statistical studies. If one looks at 100 compounds in blueberries for a statistically significant correlation between the compound and lower risk of heart disease, with statistically significant meaning 95% probability that a correlation was not due to chance, one will on average find 5 heart-healthy compounds even when none actually do anything! Given our tendency to focus on unusual events, this can lead to a bias toward considering a person or event lucky.

Of course, not every coin is fair. If your friend came with a coin that landed on heads 30 times, it would be reasonable to assume that the coin is unfair. If your friend gets a high score on 30 tests they haven't studied for, it would be reasonable to assume that they are a better-than-average learner. However, if you saw an unusual event on the news, it is less "lucky" given that the event was selected from billions of people.

Non-quantum science:

Given that non-quantum science predicts a deterministic universe, probability is a misnomer. If we knew the position and velocity of every particle at some moment, we could predict the past and the future with complete accuracy. However, we don't. Given that ridiculous numbers of atoms and molecules behave chaotically (that is, a small change in the position of one atom will affect others, which will affect others, creating larger and larger disturbances until it eventually affects the outcome of a coin flip), it is perfectly reasonable to use probability theory to describe everyday occurrences. However, the universe is fundamentally deterministic, with every event ultimately being caused by the positions of atoms in the big bang.

Quantum science:

First of all, I wanted to state the quantum mechanics does not explain anything. The theory was developed as a set of equations that accurately describe what we see in experiments, but it does not give a neat theoretical framework to explain what we see. Everything following this sentence is my interpretation, not some Great Law of nature. Quantum mechanics describes the evolution of a wave function, a mathematical equation describing a particle. Such evolution is deterministic, like the evolution of a classical particle. However, what the wave function fundamentally describes is a probability that a particle will be found at a certain location. This is not like the probabilities that arise in non-quantum science; this is actual, real, probability where the information allowing us to predict where the particle is is not available, even in principle. This suggests the universe may have probability built into its structure, not added in due to our lack of information.

Historical:

There are two views of historical events regarding chance. This first is that events happen because of various societal factors and causes that have nothing to do with luck. Thus, Spain declined because they had overextended and the glut of gold from the new world caused massive inflation, World War I was caused by cultural factors, Hitler's rise to power in Germany was based on economic factors and distrust of democracy, and the recent series of Middle-Eastern democratic uprisings was caused by growing discontent with dictatorships. The other is that they happen due to unusual people or circumstances. That is, Spain declined because their armada ran into fog, World war I was caused by the assassination of the archduke of Austria-Hungary, Hitler rose to power because of his incredible charisma and oratorical skills, and the recent Middle-Eastern uprisings were caused by a random person having the courage to burn himself. Obviously, both play a role, but how much of a role they play is debatable.

Religious:

While the previous sections were at least somewhat objective and based on facts, this section is not. As you may or may not know, I am a christian. In my particular belief system, "souls" control everything about the universe. God's soul, human souls, animal souls (if they have them), souls of angels, etc. The things that seem out of our control (like the person falling from a plane mentioned previously) are thus controlled by God. As for why he decides to save some people and not save others, I have no idea. I am sure he has his reasons, but I have no idea what they are. Now, to the topic of prayer. I am not entirely sure how this works, theologically. Perhaps a more knowledgeable christian could enlighten me? It seems that if God wants to do something, it would be best for all parties involved (otherwise, why would he do it?). Why would he care about what we want, given that he knows what we need before we ask him and that he would not give us something harmful? I still pray, given that it helps me to understand what I want better, and it feels nice "giving it to God", but I do not see a deep reason to.

Conclusion:

Well, this is the longest post I have made on this site! Hooray for me! I suppose my answer depends on the definition of luck. Is luck "a better-than-usual event happening"? In that case, I choose option 1 due to the fact that we can influence our chances to have good things happen to us by hard work and other things like that. Is it "unusual events happening that are not obviously in our control"? In that case, I choose option 2 based on the fact that random (or, for me, God-controlled) events do happen and do influence us strongly. Is it "a mysterious force not predicted by probability that causes random events to happen favorably more often than not"? Then, I choose no because the only force that could control that is God (in my belief system), and he does not make some people "luckier" than others for no reason. I chose no on the poll, given that the third definition most closely equates with superstition. Anyway, sorry for my long, annoying rambling if it bothered you.
Forum: I was looking for a good computer RPG...
Bacteriophage
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Hello, this is Bacteriophage. I was wondering if any of you fig hunters out there knew about a good RPG. I love the MARDEK series and have played it to completion about 5 times since I discovered it the winter before last. Since then, I have been hoping to find a similarly amazing game. After spending hours on Kongregate looking through games, I have found a few quite fun ones. However, none have been anywhere near MARDEK caliber. My theory about this is that most of the flash market develops for people wanting to unwind a bit during lunch, or something, rather than immerse themselves in a world for 2 weeks. Thus, the natural place to turn to is paid games. However, I have no idea where to begin and am afraid of spending my money on an uncertain purchase. Thus, I am using the Fig Hunter community as testers to sort the good games from bad ones! How evil of me. I have no fancy game systems, so all of this will have to be for a computer. My only experience with games comes from educational CDs when I was younger and flash games now. In any case, here are my qualifications for good games.

Less than 25 United States dollars would be ideal. Flash games are allowed too! I may have missed something. In fact, for all free games, you can afford to be a bit more lax with the other qualifications.

I would like the game to have a well-developed story. Not necessarily to the level of MARDEK, but at least some character development has to happen; it can't be a "Silent hero must save the world by collecting the mystic fragments of fire, water, air, and earth. Then he must join them, fight the powerful boss inside, and go through the portal of time." The deeper the better, really. I play RPGs partly because they resemble novels.

Originality is not as important to me, because I have played so few RPGs. I thus know few of the cliches and such. Since I will be judging a work on its merits alone, I do not care what it supposedly copies. The one exception is with story; originality is preferable there. Once again, however, if a work tells a trite old story but tells it well , I do not care as much.

I prefer turn-based to real-time, in general. I have found that in real-time games I tend to have little time to do anything but constantly attack the enemy. This preference is less solid than the others, however.

I love big, expansive, exploration-oriented worlds. The sheer beauty and variety of MARDEK, for example, is a major drive to play.

I would like something to test my skills, such as Karnos and Animus in MARDEK. Again, while not necessary, it's nice to be challenged to use the mechanics to their limit.

As far as mechanics (combat, equipment, skills, levels), really any interesting, well-designed system will work. I would like to be using more skills than "attack" for example.

Graphics and music are not as important. Graphics, unless they impair understanding of the story, are acceptable from pixelated black-and-white to fancy 3-D. As far as music, I usually play games with sound off out of fear of offending my family. Thus, even absence of music is acceptable.

These criteria are not set in stone. If you have a game that is exceptional in some aspects while lacking others, feel free to post it. Do try to explain why you chose what you did. I am terrified of buying a game I won't like. Also, try to explain where I can find it, with a lovely link included. I am woefully inexperienced about these things. Anyway, go forth and discuss, fellow hunters of fig!
Forum: Random People Poll by CtG, Week 22
Bacteriophage
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Well, I think I'm one of the "two different personalities" people. With my mother and on Fig Hunter, I choose option 2. Out in the world, I choose option 3.

In school and other such places, I tend to be thinking, primarily, and someone talking to me demands my immediate attention. If I do not respond adequately, said person is offended and hurt, and I thus add to the list of people I've unintentionally made enemies of. If I respond in the right way, I may cause the beginning of a long series of interactions that ultimately produce a friend. Sadly, I have no idea which interactions are which, due to my Asperger's syndrome. The fact that my entire relationship with this person depends on factors I can control but do not understand scares me enormously. My instinctive reaction to fear is to get away. Not only that, they have caused me to lose my train of thought, which annoys me. Thus, instead of unintentionally pushing people away, I end up intentionally pushing them. This stresses me even more and contributes to my desire to hide.

When that barrier is removed, as with my mother (because she knows my quirks and is not upset by them) and this site (because all communication is written), I am able to express myself more easily. My biggest concern then becomes not offending others. Most of the "arguments" I have carried out on this site have reached some sort of consensus between me and others. Still, even on this site, I am still scared of socializing. I have not accepted friend things, sent any personal messages, or entered chat. Then again, I would not actively shun a person attempting to be friendly, just be scared and awkward. With my mother, almost all social barriers have been removed and I mostly focus on being nice to her and getting her to "feel close to me".

I view myself with my mother as the truest expression of my personality, because there are so few social considerations: our interactions are primarily thought-to-thought with little filtering going on. Thus, I chose option 2.

Also, CtG, in your original post, where are the comments on last week's poll? I miss them...
Forum: If you could change the world, in any way, how would you change it?
Bacteriophage
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Bacteriophage 19 United States MelancholicPhlegmatic INTP 5w4 93C
It is impossible for anyone to be completely idealistic or completely non-idealistic. Any person must create simplified views of the world in order to function. Language itself requires assigning words like "ball" to any number of dissimilar objects. We must create an idealized construction of things that are balls and things that are not. We are all "lost in an abstract perception of the world", in that sense. I cannot actually view my fingernail for what it is, 10^23 or so atoms swirling around according to quantum-mechanical laws (and even if I could, I would not be capable of understanding it). Even a worm must classify itself as underground or aboveground. However, if these constructions are not based at all on reality, we have a completely insane person, given that their actions and thoughts would make no sense to anyone else.

Defining whether a person is an "idealist" or not thus depends on the ration of idealistic to non-idealistic traits. The question then becomes what ratio is "normal". There are several problems with that. Defining what such a ratio even is is quite debatable, and is influenced by our own idealistic and non-idealistic traits. Such ratios can be hard to observe in people, given that they may behave calmly and rationally due to fear (like me), yet still be very idealistic.

Thus, the only thing we can say with certainty about any historical figures is that they have both idealistic and non-idealistic traits. Of course, we can easily guess their ratios. Given his works, I would say Hobbes was mostly non-idealistic.

If, in your statement that no one who wasn't an idealist has ever made an impact on the world, you define "idealist" as "having idealistic traits" then that is certainly true. If you define it as "having a greater ratio of idealistic to non-idealistic traits than the average person", there are almost certainly many. I do agree that philosophers tend to be overbalanced toward idealism, though.