20 ene. 2016

All Lives Matter

I read an article today titled When simply existing is dangerous, everything is a risk. In it, the author talks about her experience helping create a game that puts people in the shoes of a transgender person and shows them all the challenges this entails.

In the article, the author also mentions she is depressed because 81 transgender people were murdered in 2015 across the world.

Well, I have good news! Data collected by the UNDOC places the worldwide number of homicides at 437,000. It is difficult to give a precise total count of transgender people but estimates vary from 0.3% to 0.5% of the total population, that would mean that worldwide the expected murder count for transgender people should be somewhere between 1,311 and 2,185 people killed by year; so transgenders are beating the odds (by a lot!).

With a world population of 7 billion, we can estimate there to be about 21 million transgenders, which, if we go by the number of 81 murders puts the murder rate for transgender people at 0.00038% which we've already shown is lower than the world average. Blacks in the US, on the other hand, have a murder rate of 0.0055% or 14 times higher than transgender people!

Now, if only somebody made a game to put us in the shoes of a black person and all the challenges they have to face.

Oh, that's right. Thanks GTA 5!

11 ene. 2016

The Hateful Gun Control

Last year the United States had almost as many mass shootings as it had days. President Obama has decided he cannot ignore this problem any longer and has called on congress to take our guns.

Fortunately I had a lot of time to think about a solution for this problem while watching The Hateful Eight, since the run-time for the movie feels like 17 hours. In the movie, a couple of bounty hunters and the sheriff of a Wyoming town take shelter from a blizzard in a cabin which is currently inhabited by four other men.

After getting inside the cabin, the group asks the current inhabitants to surrender their guns in the name of safety. This should be our first warning that something is about to go terribly wrong. And true enough, five hours into the movie (about halfway through) somebody poisons the coffee and kills several characters.

At this point I started thinking that obviously the solution would have been to hide some more guns around the cabin and for everyone to open carry their revolvers.

Unfortunately, later on the movie we learn the characters had thought about this already and they had half a dozen guns hidden around the cabin. We also learn they used these guns to kill the previous owners of the cabin. From there things escalate pretty quickly, every single character is killed in rapid succession, mostly by gunshots.

This seems like a powerful blow to the more guns equal more safety; however, people are missing the obvious point: if only one of them had an assault rifle they would have all lived happily ever after. Unless they killed each other with the assault rifle in which case the only solution would have been a tank.

Double-wield for twice the safety

9 oct. 2015

The one percent of the one percent

During a hunting trip on the show The Good Wife, one of the characters mentions that she saw "the one percent of the one percent of the one percent" referring to someone who is absurdly rich.

She probably did not realize that the one percent of the one percent of the one percent by income is basically only one person (doing simple interpolation of the data here); however, lets give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was referring instead to the 0.0001% of the population, which end up being about 319 people.

This gave me an amazing idea for a new movie: In 2015 a state of war exists between the poor, led by Joseph Stiglitz (founder of the 1% movement) and the ultra rich. At the battle of Scarsdale (median household income of $233,311), Donald Trump, king of the ultra rich, leads his badly outnumbered warriors against the massive poor army. Though certain death awaits the one percenters, their sacrifice inspires all of the normal rich to unite against their common enemy.

During one of the first scenes a messenger for the poor will be sent to deliver a message to Donald Trump. After the message is delivered Trump, clearly irritated, threatens the messenger:
Messenger: Madman! You're a madman!
Donald Trump: You bring the checkbooks and platinum cards of conquered rich to my city steps. You insult my lover. You threaten my people with slightly higher taxes! Oh, I've chosen my words carefully. Perhaps you should have done the same!
Messenger: This is blasphemy! This is madness!
Donald Trump: Madness? This. IS. WALL STREET!!
 Later in the movie, as the rich are preparing to defend the all-out attack from the poor the following exchange takes place:
Donald Trump: Ultra rich! Ready your caviar and eat hearty; for tonight, we dine in Restaurant Le Meurice in Paris!
I suspect those abs were computer generated.

I don't want to ruin the ending, but it does not end well for the US.

8 ago. 2015

Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

Growing up reading Isaac Asimov, one of my dreams was to become a successful science fiction author. However, actually figuring out how to write good science fiction is very complicated and requires a lot of work and patience to get the science right and the writing perfect.

Zach Weinersmith wrote that reality has two dimensions of time: proper time and remembered time. Proper time is the one we store in watches (for example: August 8, 2015 at 3:32 p.m.) while remembered time is stored in our neurons (for example: the time I visited Costa Rica).

Because remembered time will only remember the things that I liked (and those memories will be further reinforced because I will talk about them and think about them often) humans tend to idealize the past and associate the past with a better state of things. This is what we call nostalgia.

But if our brains aren’t very good at remembering things, they are pretty amazing at making connections (even when they aren’t there). That is the reason for this list of parallels between the lives of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln and it is also how I feel about Ernest Cline (author of Ready Player One) and Andy Weir (author of The Martian).

You see: both authors were born in the US in 1972, both authors published their first book in 2011, the plot of both books relies on nostalgia and both books didn’t do amazingly well on release but are now considered classics of modern science fiction.

And this brings me back to my original point. Becoming a science fiction writer must be a matter of finding a magical formula that anybody can copy and then just writing lots of words. In order to find this magic formula, I will analyze these two books.

I will start by looking at Andy Weir’s book. The Martian was painstakingly researched in order to have correct science, which required lots of complicated mathematics to get right. It creates rich characters with feelings and limitations, characters who are afraid of losing and uses nostalgic elements to tie them up to Earth and make you identify with them. So, obviously, that is too much work. Moving on!

Ready Player One is far simpler. The basic idea is to throw as many nostalgic references as possible in the hopes that someone will say “hey! I know that one thing!”. The first element of nostalgia appears all the way in page number 2: an Atari 2600. After that references show up every couple paragraphs (always presented in a list of items because that makes it even more annoying to read). We will read lists of consoles (Apple IIe, a Commodore 64, an Atari 800 XL, TRS-80), games (Galaga, Defender, Asteroids), comics (Spider-Man, X-Men, Green Lantern), refuges (Batcave, Fortress of Solitude), fictional worlds (Middle Earth, Vulcan, Pern, Arrakis, Magrathea,Discworld, Mid-World, Riverworld, Ringworld), spacecraft (UFOs, TIE fighters, old NASA space shuttles, Vipers), etc.

Additionally, the book treats the reader like an idiot. Every single joke is explained, and then if people are too dense to get it, it is explained again. Every term that isn’t completely obvious is expanded upon. Don’t know what an NPC is? Can’t be bothered to Google it? Don’t worry, the book says they are “non-player characters” – still don’t get it? No problem, the next paragraph will explain – “computer-controlled humans, animals, monsters, aliens and androids.”

So, insulting my readers and listing things? I can totally do that!!

And so I present to you the first paragraph of my science fiction masterpiece:
"thanks Obama!" – He said sarcastically while rolling his eyes. Some members of the audience were still not getting it – "I was being sarcastic" – he further explained, explainingly (sarcasm is the use of irony to mock or convey contempt) – "in this case I am not really thanking Obama, I just say 'thanks Obama' in an ironic way" -- he added expositionally [1]. 
[1] Expositionally is the adverb form the word exposition. Adverbs are words or phrases that qualify adjectives, verbs or other adverbs. Some of the possible categorizations of adverbs include: Genitive, Conjunctive, Flat, Locative, Interrogative, Collateral, Prepositional, Pronominal and Relative

Some attentive readers might notice that collateral is really a form of adjective, to which I reply: who cares? Determining the correct list would require work and by that point my target audience will be thinking: "ohh!! Look, locative adverbs, I remember those from school!! This book is super cool!!"

5 jul. 2015

Fourth of July

The United States are widely known for adopting other cultures and celebrating them, for example in Cinco de Mayo, where they celebrate by putting on sombreros, drinking tequila and listening to Latin American music (to which they refer by the common national name of "Mexican"). It is in this spirit that, during my trip to Mexico, we decided to celebrate Fourth of July (pronounced Fort of Hoolie).

We began our celebration with a typical steak and eggs breakfast. To prepare this breakfast you have to sun-dry the steak, pound it and heat it in a pan. After the meat is brown you add tomatoes, onions, serrano chile and eggs.

Steak and Eggs

Once the steak and eggs are done, you put them as a topping in a traditional American pizza:

A typical American breakfast

Once we were done with breakfast we engaged in the characteristic ritual of shopping, from the French word chopîn which means: buying things I don't have money for. During this shopping spree, we bought a plush dinosaur, hamburgers, coffee and horchata among other things.

Once we came back home, we dressed in typical American formal wear.

An American Cowboy and the customary American hat.

Before the meal we had some American hors d'oeuvres.

A map of the United States; we put the flag in the capital: Washington D.C.

We also learned a bit about the history and culture of the United States. The Fourth of July is the celebration of the day when the Native American Indians taught the Americans to make hamburgers after the famous battle of Waterloo. Ever since, in order to commemorate this event, Americans make hamburgers and hot dogs.

Almost as good as McDonald's

Little known fact: hot dogs are shaped after American submarines, which is why they are sometimes called subs.

An American sub.

We wanted to celebrate American culture fully, so we even bought a soap dispenser shaped like the American national bird: the bald owl.

You can tell he is bald because he is wearing a pilgrim hat.

Unfortunately we could not find Bud Light so we had to substitute using good beer.

6 jun. 2015

Boldly Running

Lincoln Chafee announced he wanted to run for the Democratic bid under a platform of "bold ideas" including the idea of switching to using the metric system.

While discussing this at work someone mentioned that the idea of using standardized units would not be well received by the general American population, to the point where that single idea could have cost him the nomination.

I am hoping that some Republican candidate realizes that the issue is polarizing and decides to run under a platform of "bold ideas", including the idea of switching to units which are even further away from the metric system.

To help that hypothetical Republican candidate in his nomination I want to submit a proposal to change the unit of energy from Calories to horsepower per hour (or horses for short).

This has many benefits; for example: horsepower per hour is a bigger unit than calories, so instead of eating hundreds of calories we will be eating only half a horse (note: call this a pony). I am sure this will boost morale and have a positive effect on people who overeat.

And so that people get accustomed to the change, some meals in horses:

  • Bruléed French Toast from Cheesecake Factory -- 4.33 horses 
  • Big Hook Up from Joe-s Crab Shack -- 5.11 horses 
  • New York Steak "Contadina style" from Maggiano's  -- 3.77 horses.
  • Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza from BJ's -- 3.36 horses
  • Large Chocolate Oreo Shake from Baskin-Robbins -- 4.05 horses

24 mar. 2015

Chicago Bullies

Chicago Bulls fans who watch their team in the United Center receive coupons for a free Big Mac if their team wins and scores at least 100 points.

This has lead to some mathematically-challenged fans who will boo the players when they do not score at least 100 points, because they do not understand that 99 < 100 and the players just saved them from having a dinner which, nutritionally speaking, compares slightly disfavorably to cheap car oil and doesn't taste much better than it either.

This has also lead some of my more sophisticated readers to wonder: "well, but why is McDonald's torturing Bulls fans by forcing them to consume their burgers?" and I would like to remind them that this is America; we do not condone torture. Giving out free Big Macs is only part of the CIA's enhanced celebration techniques.