Reading – Staring into the Void

Man, talk about falling off the wagon. A day or two became a week or two, which then became a couple of months.

In other news, I finally finished the remaining novels from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. A somewhat bittersweet moment. Considering most of my fantasy reading for the last decade has been Discworld, it feels rather strange to have “finished” them. Of course, considering the 40-something novels involved and the fact that it took me close to a decade to get around to reading them, I could probably start over again at the beginning and find some of them quite new again. I suspect I might even appreciate some of the earlier works more now than I did the first time through.

I find myself reluctant to do so, though. In fact, I’ve been maintaining a healthy distance from fiction since I finished the final book. I took a detour a few months ago and read some novels pretty far off my beaten path, but at the moment don’t feel particularly inclined to read anything.

It’s not an unfamiliar sensation either. Comparable to finishing a reasonably immersive book, but on a larger scale. It’s a strange sense of satisfaction with a note of loss. I’ve noticed it used in advertising streaming services as well. The rather manipulatively named “Show Hole.” The implication being that it’s bad needs to be filled with one of their TV shows.

I personally associate it instead with a decent ending. I enjoyed the series and remain thankful for the ideas and concepts that Sir Terry introduced me to along the way. There’s a high likelihood that I will reread some or all of them, at one point or another. For now, though, I shall simply rest and allow my thoughts to settle. Staring into the void and letting it stare back until I feel adequately reset.

Y’all take care.

Reading and Gaming – Forced Balance

I have found myself on the receiving end of some tendinitis of the arm as of late. Whether we regard that as a positive or negative thing seems a bit subjective, however the culprit was likely too much time spent playing PSO2.

The silver lining is that it has forced me to limit the amount of time I was investing in gaming. The very constant and rapid clicking required to keep up in the Ultimate Quests has been especially painful after only an hour or so. I chose to balance this by reading books sitting in what I have affectionately began calling “the tinderbox.” So called because I told my coworker about this pile of mostly econ and investing books while discussing one of them. He told me that “having that much dry material in one place was a fire hazard.”

I have greatly enjoyed the change of pace, though in some cases it seems to have created a rather strong mental bias toward discussing it as I work my way through the details. I have also began to draw my wife’s attention, as she asked me the other day just how many books I intended to order. I didn’t exactly have an answer, though I believe I’m largely settled for now. If nothing else, it is some much-needed balance.

In fact, the real problem has become which book to read. I do have an immediate goal, I think, though it didn’t become apparent until recently.

Just based on my reaction to Friedman’s work, I felt that maybe Hard Heads, Soft Hearts was a good next choice. Other things in the tinderbox, in no particular order:

It’s actually quite the deviation from reading roots of Fantasy/Sci-Fi. And wow is that more books than I thought it was. Maybe I should chill out for a while. Though it’s hard to compare one book to another in terms of reading time, even at two weeks each that’s around 34 weeks worth of reading consistently.

As always, I’m sure I’ll be discussing most of these in turn. They will require a considerable degree of internal debate, and that has a habit of ending up in blog posts.

Y’all take care, and maybe keep an eye on that book pile. Probably shouldn’t let it get quite as big as this one.

Mixer, Free Markets, and Monopolies

While I continue to reflect on the ideas and suggestions of Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, I cannot help but look at the showdown/sale of Mixer in that context. If there were to be a nutshell version of the book, it would be an argument that less government regulation and more free market leads to more efficient outcomes.

He is, however, notably opposed to monopolies as a violation of freedom by way of reducing available choices. This is, effectively, what the shutdown of Mixer represents. It is noticeable blow to the choices of both content creators and viewers because there are few other choices. As pointed out by Belghast, the difficulty of transferring viewers from one platform to another is going to directly harm the creators that used Mixer. I would almost venture to say that most of them must likely return to Twitch if they wish to retain as many viewers as possible.

What struck me about all this is that it seems to be a situation in which the “free market” is consolidating power and working against competition rather than toward it. Of course, let’s be honest, I hardly considered Facebook a serious player in this game. Facebook plus Mixer is hardly a monopoly, it represents the loss of options for users.

All things considered, it seemed unusual to me that the move didn’t require review by the Department of Justice, as most of these large mergers and acquisitions tend to. Upon looking into it, I was a bit surprised to learn that the review process only applies to transactions valued greater than 96M$. The numbers I’m seeing for Mixer are… less than that. This means it doesn’t need review, apparently.

What bothered me most about this was that it almost seems that a giant corporation such as Facebook could, in theory, run around eating up all sort of smaller companies to maintain a more monopolistic position, so long as they got them while they were still below the limit.

I think in the real world someone would eventually file an anti-trust suit, and if you managed to fly in low and get a nice initial public offering you could go public with enough value to exceed the limit. That, and a corporation cannot easily force you to sell something. You could just refuse to sell. At least until they made an offer to your liking.

It was just a thought and an observation though. I have no dog in this fight. I do you Twitch, but only rarely. This is usually because developers and publishers have developed a habit for not showing enough gameplay footage to get an idea of how a game plays. A live stream gives me a much better idea of gameplay and flow.

Y’all take care. I’m going to go stare at the wall and think about this a bit more.

Reflection – Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom

Some time back I came across a “Summer Reading List” on Greg Mankiw’s blog. I figured since I wasn’t originally taking classes during the summer I figured I would put my money where my mouth was and actually acquire some of these recommendations and begin reading them. After all, he’s the one with a Ph.D., so I figured his choices were likely wiser than mine. The fact that I had previously read and enjoyed one of the titles on the list also helped.

The title I started with is the subject of this post, Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. Now, to be fair, I haven’t actually finished the book yet. I’m somewhere around 2/3 of the way through it. I have discussed various sections with my coworker as I have gone through it, and for time and readability do not intend to repeat that commentary here. Instead, this is a more of a general impression and commentary on a specific section.

First, I would like to point out that this book was originally published in the 1960s. Taken in context, I feel this works in the book’s favor by offering a contrast between where we were and where we are. Some things have certainly changed, though not always in the direction our author would have preferred.

It has a perspective that most people would currently describe as libertarian, I think. There’s a tendency toward small government and a free market with minimal regulation. He often uses the word “liberal” to describe this position, not to be confused with the modern political thought of the same name.

While I do not always agree with his points, they are at least well reasoned and argued. My disagreements tend to be in the form of “Yes, but” style statements, and most of them stem from the fact that I place a higher social cost on human suffering than he does.

While somewhat out of context, there are certain statements I find extraordinarily relevant to the situation in the US. “Mistakes, excusable or not, cannot be avoided in a system which disperses responsibility yet gives a few men great power, and which thereby makes important policy actions highly dependent on accidents of personality.” (pg. 50) He was largely speaking of the Federal Reserve and central banking system, but I feel this applies equally well to both political leadership and law enforcement. I also feel that the phrase “Mistakes […] cannot be avoided” is generally true regardless of what other conditions are imposed.

I find my thoughts dwell rather long on the section regarding government subsidization of higher education. By default, he is opposed to such programs as necessarily inefficient. The taxpayer bears the burden of cost while the individual reaps the reward of increased personal income. That point, in itself, is valid. Especially in a case like mine where a federal grant is covering the costs I’m currently incurring. In fact, it’s the only thing enabling this adventure at all, and I do often feel some measure of guilt about this.

As a result, though, what I lack in financial investment I try to make up with time and effort. It seems the least I could do. The biggest problem is that it seems nearly impossible to accurately assess inherent human potential. If you were to take only my past history in education, it would paint a quite different picture of my potential than my current record does. This suggests that past performance is not always the best indicator, though how recently past may be a factor also.

Things that really rub me the wrong way are “the reluctance to think of investment in human beings as strictly comparable to investment in physical assets.” With all due respect, Dr. Friedman, we cannot accurately assess the unrealized potential of humans quite the same way we can with physical assets. Physical assets do not live, do not suffer, do not innovate. While I understand the underlying logic, any attempt to seriously compare living things with inanimate objects is… inhumane. Does this mean we should run full tilt into free college for everyone? Probably not.

In his defense, he does go on to describe a form of government revenue sharing, a trend that has only recently begun to make headway in the private lending sector. In exchange for financing the education, the educated promises a certain percentage of future income instead of a standard loan payment. It only took, y’know, 60 years. I think that would be a fair modification to the government grant as well, though many people today would be willing to allow the government that far into “their business.”

I have yet to read the sections that will be of greatest interest to me, though, so expect to hear about this book again. The next section is about discrimination which is quite a prescient topic, to say the least.

I am well beyond my standard length, though, so y’all take care.

Opinion – Good Omens

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m quite fond of the various works of the late Sir Terry Pratchett. I have to say, though, that I’ve never read any of his work outside the main Discworld series, including Good Omens.

A lot of people have asked me about it and talked about it, so I figure I might as well go ahead and watch it sooner rather than later. Something, something, spoilers.

Ironically, my wife watched it before I did, and her only comment on the matter was that she “forgot how irreverent his tone was.” I, for one, quite liked it, as did my co-worker.

I don’t really have a lot to say, I don’t think since I cannot compare it to the source material. I do feel that David Tennant plays a pretty good demon and that the overall character and tone are to my liking.

For my time I was quite entertained and laughed at several different points, which is generally a good sign. The pop culture references, while present and numerous, were not overly intrusive.

I’m not overly fond of the fact that it’s broken out into six one-hour pieces, as I don’t normally devote that much time to actively watching video and would have rather had it in smaller pieces. Still, there’s a pause button for a reason, I suppose, and I used it quite liberally.

Anyone interesting in checking it out can look here, I think? Never tried to link to Prime video before. It would also seem that they have The Hogfather, which I’ve seen, and Going Postal, which I have not. I have read both of the respective books, however.

Unfortunately, much like the blog writing has been a bit spotty, my reading time is consumed entirely by class work. In fact, I should probably be doing that, but it’s nice to focus on something else for a while.

Y’all take care, and “be nice to each other.”

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld

It’s weird, when I think about it, just how long I’ve been reading these books. It used to be more of an on again, off again thing, but lately it’s been a more regular thing.

There are, according to Wikipedia, 41 novels in this universe. I’ve been skipping the YA novels because I would rather read them with/to my children. Discounting the six of them there are 35 “regular” novels. I’ve read 32 of them, at this point, having just finished Making Money last week. Realizing that I only have three left is… mildly depressing.

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

Alas, Sir Terry is no longer among the living. He lives on in his works though. In fact, they’re so numerous that by the time I finish I can start again from the beginning and half of them will almost be a new experience again.

What’s odd is how I came by the series to begin with. I believe I saw The Colour of Magic made-for-TV movie* on Netflix or something and enjoyed it. Upon seeing mention of it being based on a book I figured if I liked the movie the book is probably better, it usually is. I really liked the book and sort of kept reading them.

It’s hard to say what it is that I like so much about the series. It’s a combination of his writing style, humor, and the cast of characters he has created. I’m a big fan of parody and many of his books are a parody of our reality told in a way I find particularly interesting.

I have started the next book, Unseen Academicals, though I haven’t gotten very far. I’m still trying to find a good balance between writing/reading because most of my writing time was drawn from the reading time. Which reminds me, pretty soon it’ll be time to read Hogfather again.

Y’all take care. In the words of the dog-botherer himself, “Do not let me detain you.”

September Plans

With August behind me it’s now time to focus on what I’m going to be doing during September.

Monster Hunter World is probably approaching a point where I will have done most of what I want to do. I’m sitting just over 100 hours at the moment, but we’re in the late game stage of tempered monsters at this point, so we will eventually run out of interesting things to do.

Warframe still needs some work as well. I need to finish grinding out faction for the last update and there’s an event running the first two weeks of September that I should probably get in and work on as well.

I have some friends trying Guild Wars 2 at the moment, so when the opportunity arises we may descend upon it as a small group and spend some time there as well. It’s a good game that I would like to spend some more time with.

That’s all I can easily foresee at the moment. Any spare time not devoted to these is probably going to be working on Battletech, which I want to play more of, and I’ve been considering spending some time with Archeage as well.

As far as Something New posts go, I have three in various stages. I intend to do Battletech tomorrow, and Archeage and MU Legend on the next two Saturdays in a yet to be determined order. That leaves two days currently unplanned, so if there’s anything you guys want me to try leave me a comment and I’ll see how feasible it is.

Honestly I think that covers most of the plans I have for gaming at the moment. I do have a few other things I’m slowly working on, but not in such a way as to have definite plans.

I’ve been very slowly reading the Discworld books by the late Sir Terry Pratchett. I’m currently about three quarters of the way through Making Money. I pretty much intend to start over from the beginning when I reach the end. It’s been so long since I started that it’ll be an interesting experience.

I’m also trying to figure out how to fill my Tuesday and Friday podcast slots. Tuesday in particular is a huge hole in my schedule that needs something in it. At the moment I’m not sure what I even want to go there. It’s just an irritating lack of content.

GNU Terry Pratchett