— Max vs. The Internet

I have been enjoying HBO’s True Detective a great deal.

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Occasionally, some earworm of a quote (“phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny”) starts to burrow around in my head, its phrasing inconveniently severed from its source, context, general usage, and/or its exact wording. My preferred way to stop it from rattling around is track down the correct wording of the quote or phrase (“ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”), along with its attendant details (apparently Haeckel, Recapitulation Theory). Once the phrasing has been corrected and reattached to its bona fide signifieds, the worm generally becomes quite a bit tamer and I can get over it.

I’ve had the devil of a time trying to sort out this one, misremembered as:

all the books ever written could fit in the bandwidth of a 30 second/30 minute television broadcast in a major metropolitan American city. Not all bytes/bits are created equal.

-Carl Sagan

I knew that he had said it more elegantly, and I suspected that the 30 second or minute number was obviously wrong in my recollection, but that he had certainly gotten it right. I piddled around for a while on google with queries like “sagan book vs tv quote” and “‘all the books ever written’ tv”, before changing tack and trying “not all bytes are created equal”, “not all bits are equal”, and etc.

The first line of questioning turned up many of Sagan’s quotes regarding the magic of books, and the second seemed endlessly abused as the bon mot of choice for writers hoping to punch up their Net Neutrality op-eds. I found an Information Theory paper, which led me to suspect that maybe I was misattributing the quote Sagan instead of Claude Shannon, but that hunch was also wrong.

An empty handed tour of Sagan’s wikiquote page had me very discouraged, until a search result pointed to its talk page. There it was, in the “unsourced” section:

All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.

At least now I had the phrasing, but I was still bothered by the lack of source. Had Sagan actually written or said this? If so, when, and in what context? Armed with the exact phrase, I saw plenty of pages quoting it, but none confirming it.

One result in Google Books (Game, Set, Match: Winning the Negotiations Game, by Henry S. Kramer,  ALM Publishing 2001, in all its airport-bookstore glory) also failed to cite a source beyond “Carl Sagan,” but it gave me the idea to punch a chunk of the quote itself into  Google Books.

“Not all bits have equal value” had the 2011 edition of Sagan’s Cosmos as a result, and there it was, albeit buried down in a footnote:

Thus all of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.

-Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 2011 Random House

(some pages in towards the end because citing ebooks is a mess)

MFW:

Most quoters seem content to omit the initial “thus,” so please let me be remembered as a petty stickler who wants you to know it’s there.

Now to go fix the wikiquote page.

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At first, I was looking forward to using this afterword to tell the story of publishing the Picnic: naming once-hated names; jeering to my heart’s content at the cowards, idiots, informers, and scoundrels; astounding the reader with the absurdity, idiocy, and meanness of the world we’re all from; being ironic and instructive, deliberately objective and ruthless, benevolent and caustic all at once. And now I’m sitting here, looking at these folders, and realizing that I’m hopelessly late and that no one needs me—not my irony, not my generosity, and not my burnt-out hatred.

-Boris Strugatsky’s afterword to the 2012 edition of Roadside Picnic, translated by  Olena Bormashenko

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Maybe a couple of years ago, I was lazing about and watching a PBS documentary on Netflix about the Medici family. Usually I treat documentaries as the perfect thing to have on while folding laundry, but on a whim I had started this one to pass a slow afternoon. I stuck with it because the story of how the Medici expanded their power and influence is actually pretty fascinating, but more than anything else, I love the narrator’s overheated delivery. He never appears on screen, but manages to steal every segment with the way he reads his lines. If we could see him, we’d say he was chewing the scenery. It’s fantastic. You can watch the whole series (“The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance“) on Youtube now.

My favorite moment in the whole series is during a segment outlining how Filippo Brunelleschi (under Medici patronage, of course) designed and managed the construction of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral’s dome. Nothing quite like it had been built before (I think the Hagia Sophia is bigger, but not as arched), and there was some doubt whether his design would work. Complicating matters, the authorities had offered a prize to whomever could complete the cathedral. While Brunelleschi knew he had a solution, he did not want to reveal his design’s secrets, so this happened (skip to just before the 17 minute mark if the embed is borked):

In a meeting with the men awarding the prize, Brunelleschi challenged these nay-sayers to stand an egg on its end. When they couldn’t, he smashed one end of egg, leaving the other half standing up, like an arched dome. The men judging his solution then complained that his answer was too obvious. Brunelleschi replied that so was his design, which is why he had to keep it under wraps.

This story has been rattling around in my head since I saw it, and is probably my favorite historical example of lateral thinking (sorry about the Gordian knot, Alexander). It’s a perfect demonstration. Not only did it prove Brunelleschi’s point (‘I have a solution that works– I’m not trying to sell you a pig in a poke’), but it illustrated the underlying principle of his design with violent clarity. A bit of a prima donna move on Brunelleschi’s part, but effective.

Eggs are powerful structures, yo.

 

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I’ve been working on SCALE with Steve and the rest of Cubeheart for the past couple of months. We’re very pleased with how the trailer for the game and Kickstarter page have turned out, please take a look and spread the word if you are so inclined: http://kck.st/19b5vQB

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On Friday, Valve announced the Steam Controller, which brings my scorecard to 2/3 not-freebies:

  • [√] SteamOS (free space, like Bingo!)
  • [√] SteamBox
  • [√] Steam Controller
  • [ ] Source 2

You can read plenty about The Controller elsewhere. I am completely reserving judgement until I actually hold one, but I like how the lobes of each grip resemble avocados. Now I really want them to be warty/dimpled, just to make it uglier. I do worry about how robust the haptic response components are in the face of years of abuse, cheeto dust, hand grease, sweat, and the other bits of acidic, greasy schmutz that just seems to slime out of the human body and accumulate on the various machine surfaces we grope, poke, clutch and grab day in and day out. I’m calling it here first, the next big controller innovation will be something covered in a non-slimy biofilm that eats all the ick we ooze onto it. You may think this is an overreaction, but perhaps you never had to clean out a mouseball “on the regs.”

It’s refreshing that there’s no motion control gimmickry.

Still more interested in what Source 2 could possibly be, but as my friend Matt pointed out, this announcement is all about the platform for other people’s games, and talking about Source 2 right now might color the SteamBox too much as the ValveBox. Also, /livingroom/, yo.

I’m riding their hype train at this point, so I used the SteamBox beta requirements as an excuse to sit down and play Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (thank you, based Sean). It’s a solid 3.5 hours of storybook magic, and it really captures much of the mystery and darkness I remember from the folktales my father used to read to my siblings and I. Also, hat-tip to David for pointing out that the high, keening wail in the soundtrack is actually a traditional herding/musical technique called kulning. It takes some getting used to though, and never really became my cup of tea, but is strange enough that I felt compelled to listen to this track David found.

 

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That’s right! P-O-R-N-O-G-R-A-P-H-Y is coming to SteamOS and isn’t that exciting! What ever are we going to do about that?

The rest of this article is mildly-NSFW (don’t worry, you won’t see any nudity or penetration, but there will be the usual complement of swears/fuck-words), and there will be some censored images. Also, shit son, you’re playing a risky game reading an article about porn at work. The IT department and the NSA have just told your parents, your partner, and your pastor. I hope you cleared your browser history!

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steam_announce_tease_2

Part 1 right here, of course. How are our predictions doing?

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Valve announced their Linux powered SteamOS yesterday. It’s the first in a series of 3 announcements they’ll be making this week, and of course the Internet peanut gallery is going nuts trying to call the next play. I think it’d be fun to join in, and we’ll both get a laugh out of these predictions at the end of the week.

 

 

Valve’s been teasing this three-part announcement with this image:

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Introduction

If you’re a stranger from the Internet, here’s some context for this list: I gave a talk about video game production to William Huber’s CTIN 463 Anatomy of a Game Class at USC this past Monday, 16 September. This is a supplemental list of resources for that talk that, uh, I got carried away with.

So! Anatomy of a Game students: thanks for letting me rant about a wide variety of production related topics, and bloviate as only someone with truly limited expertise can.

You will find over the course of your careers and lives that the moment someone claims they “know enough to be dangerous” they are right about the dangerous part, even if they are lying about what they know. It’s easy, once you get over the TOTAL NOVICE section of a given domain’s learning curve to feel yourself full of all the answers or that all the answers are at least in reach. Experts, or people who have invested their lives into what they do are much more likely to know all the things they still have yet to learn, and all the specializations or other sub-domains they have yet to thoroughly investigate. This isn’t to say you should NEVER attempt to shake things up with a rookie’s zeal (WHY don’t we just try X?), but perhaps try to understand the unstated reasons or externalities for what you’re trying to change before charging in.*

There, see, I’ve begun to bloviate again.

Put another way, a light bulb went off in my head the first time I heard that earning a Black Belt in a martial art doesn’t mean that you’re now a certified Ultimate Badass with total mastery: it means you’re ready to learn. You’re fluent enough in the basics that you can enter the community of serious practioners and begin to cultivate a real understanding within yourself. And life is way harder, because there isn’t a belt system for your entire life, and the teachers worth learning from are much harder to find, and often times they disagree with one another for very good reasons. Don’t make your goal to become like your heroes. Find out what your heroes’ goals were, and strive towards those. Better yet, make your own. This is all by way of saying that this list does not form a complete and balanced mental diet, but I hope it’s a good start. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I do claim to have done some stuff.

With that florid caveat tenuously in place, allow me to append the traditional litany of cop-outs on the internet: “I am not a lawyer. Your mileage may vary. This is just the stuff that has worked for me. If you try this and it doesn’t work, please don’t sue me. You may find some of these resources are not for you.” Remember the lesson of the Gold Bond Medicated Powder. It’s important to stay on point, but rarely will someone drift off the point in a way so obvious and easily corrected. Far more common and insidious are the distractions of seemingly pertinent things**, and in a stream of information, it’s much harder to pan for the golden flake you need unless you scoop up plenty of dirt, too.

Anyways, it’s time for me to shake what my momma gave me*** and give you what you came here for: a list of useful books and resources. I’ll break them into a few different broad categories for you:

  • Foundations: Books about Life Skills
  • Business-ish: Books about Business or Production Methodologies
  • Skills: Books that address specific skills and interests
  • Fun: Bonus Material you may enjoy

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