Philosophy Tuesday

We are always piercing things together to form a reality.  Everything we experience, whether personally or through stories or through both passive and active observation becomes fodder for our automatic, unconscious, reality-deducing machinery.  We piece together all these bits of information and draw inferences, see cause and effect* and craft a strong sense of what things are.

This includes things that people can be or can become.  Even if we are not it right now, or don’t use it right now, and maybe don’t even see ourselves ever becoming it, we know it and know how it operates.

So that in that moment when we become it, all that ‘knowing’ comes to the fore, because our mind grabs what it already ‘knows’ as a predictor for how to behave and, thus, as the way to succeed.

And there are many moments like that in our life, where we weren’t something and suddenly now we are:  student, employee, citizen, on our own, driver, homeowner, significant other, spouse, parent… if it can be a label, it can be an it.

When that proverbial light switch flips and we find ourselves – suddenly! – in that new situation with that new label, being that it, we end up acting out just like things were done before.

Even if they’re not productive.  Even if they’re not helpful.  Even if they don’t represent the best expression of who we can be.

But we do it because that’s realityIt is how it is.

And then we laugh (or recoil) and say, “I’m just like my parents,” or we later say, “I understand what they were saying now.”

Except that it’s not really that way at all.  Instead, it is just that we’ve fallen into it by the virtue of not being aware of not being aware.  Instead we’re asleep with no agency, just repeating the past, ad nauseum.**

Bringing mindfulness to the situation (even years later) lets us interrupt that cycle and interject ourselves into the now of our it so that we regain our agency and choice.  We allow ourselves to be informed by what came before without needing to become it.  We get to think about things complexly, rope in our other experiences, and create.

By bringing our central selves to the fore, we can truly make it our own.

 

* I’m sure it goes without saying that we see cause and effect supremely often where no such relationship exists… yet we form our realities as though it is so.

** It’s important to get how insidiously powerful and prevalent this is, how much we become subsumed into that already always knowing to become the thing, that it, forever being perpetuated into the future.  We don’t even get to have our own experiences.  The experiences of others we’ve gleaned over the years are instantly our moment-by-moment experience of that it, shaping our behavior, actions, and experience going forward in a cycle.

Architecture Monday

Oh wow, the funkitude is strong with this one!  The curves, the copper, the protrusions, the sinuous shingle work, the way hit juts out from its sloping site to fly into the trees…

This is a house that is very much tailored to its owner, with little bits all over designed to support their lifestyle, from the meditation apertures (with wild circular glazing) to the acoustic ceiling for chorale singing to the gardens and the flow of inside and out.  Whether you like its particular stylings or not, it’s definitively got flair.

I dig it.  Very unique and fun and I bet the owner is super happy in it.  Creatively fantastic.

The Wilkinson Residence by Robert Harvey Oshatz.

Gaming Thursday: More on the Bell

Something came to me recently that’s worthwhile adding to my earlier thoughts on why I am in favour of bell-curve dice systems:  With the clustering of results, and their lack of swinginess, they greatly reduce the dreaded “streaks of suck” where one poor roll is followed by another… and then another… and then another…

With a linear die system, such as a d20, you’ve got the same chance as rolling a 1 as you do a 10 as you do a 20.  Rolling a bunch of bad rolls in a row isn’t all that difficult to do.  And sure, sometimes those strings of bad rolls can be kinda funny in their own, peculiar, way.  But more often than not it creates, at best, difficulties for your character and, at worse, puts them into great peril.  And it can be frustrating as heck, a thwarting of self and an affront to the idea of competence.

(What about the opposite end?  That can also be annoying… rolling several great rolls in a row where they are not useful, or having a string of them and then not having them for what feels like a very long time…)

But with a bell curve of results, even if your chance of failure may be the same on the whole, the distribution of those bad rolls is much more evenly distributed over time.  Because the results cluster to the middle, rolling a bad roll is more likely to be followed by a middling roll than having an equal chance of having yet another bad roll.  Which leads not only to less frustration but also to that greater sense of competency as well as confidence which allows for greater planning and, ultimately, more meaningful choices.

Architecture Monday

WOW… the beauty of these amazing bundles of bamboo, all tied together to form these delicious interlocking sets of gothic-like arches, is just gorgeously stunning! And that wonderful umbrella creates an equally wonderful space.  This is structure used to it’s fullest as a generator of form.

What amazing craftsmanship.  Local genius with local materials.  Love it.

The Vedana Restaurant by VTN Architects (who have done many incredible things with bamboo, check out their other projects).

Gaming Thursday: Cyberpunk Read

I played a tonne of the Cyberpunk RPG back in the day.  My friends and I picked up the first edition (retroactively named/referred to as the 2013 edition) pretty much as soon as it came out, and it became one of our games of choice almost instantly.  When the 2.0.2.0 edition came out, we eagerly snapped it up and kept right on playing.  And even as I I headed off to university and beyond, new games were started with new groups.  I’ve enjoyed it aplenty.

With the newly released Cyperpunk computer game comes a new edition of the RPG rules, this time titled Cyberpunk Red.  Intrigued, I gave it a quick read through (hence the pun title for this post) and wow, is it ever a blast from the past.  In that it feels as though it is from the past.  In that the rules haven’t really changed all that much.  In that it is as if 30 years of gaming and RPG rules and concepts growth hadn’t happened.

To be fair, the Interlock System that underpins the rules was (and still is) a pretty solid core.  At the time of the first Cyberpunk game, it felt especially streamlined and fresh and a nice implementation of a skill+attribute based system.  But with the reflection of having played so many other systems in the intervening years, the inelegant and sometimes even kludgy edges of the ruleset as a whole now show through for me.  In addition, it hasn’t added any narrative hook support, something that’s intriguing me more these days.

And as someone who is a bit of a fanatic about character sheets… I find the one for Red quite painful to look at.  (Maybe it’s meant for someone with cybereyes?)

All in all, reading the rules I was left with a sense of meh.  I’m still keen on cyberpunk (in the full exploration of its genre, not just the aesthetic), but depending on the type of campaign we were going to play there’s a few other rulesets I’d gravitate towards instead.  Rope in the good background info and world lore from Cyberpunk, yes, but upgrade to a keener operating system.

Wonder Wednesday

It may seem incongruous to see a congratulatory text at the bottom of a screen showing a big pile of flaming wreckage… and indeed, this first flight test of SpaceX’s new Starship did end in one of their patented Rapid Unscheduled Disassemblies, aka a RUD, aka “A loud boom and parts everywhere.”

BUT! This was in so many ways an amazing test and a crazy success.  The thing took off, held aloft by three fully burning Raptor engines (making this the first flight of a Methane/LOX engine, perhaps?), soaring upward to 12.5km or nearly 8 miles in altitude (the view from the downward camera was intense), then “skydiving” gracefully back down towards the landing pad before, in the ultimate pièce de résistance, flipping itself back vertical with an engine relight, all well aimed for a pad touchdown.  Not everything went perfect (looks at the image above again… clearly) but for a first try this was incredible.

Unfortunately, I missed watching it it live (I watched live yesterday when they had their last second abort, and I swear earlier I saw that the next attempt wasn’t going to be today but apparently it was) but I’ve watched the replay a couple of times now and it was still intense.  WordPress tends to strips out the proper time link, so go to about 1 hour, 46 minutes into the video to arrive just before the launch :

Even if you’re not interested in space and rockets I still invite you to check it out, it’s impressive enough and there are a couple of moments that’ll make your brain try and figure out what crazy thing it is watching.  And if you really aren’t interested, then I submit to you at least to watch the landing flip, which is captured even more amazingly from this on-the-pad camera:

As for the destruction of the test vehicle, well, not a problem.  They’ve got the next one just about complete, and two more readied right up behind it.  I can’t wait to see them hit orbit.

Philosophy Tuesday

Often, we find ourselves trapped within a game.  A game that we didn’t choose.

A game that we, mostly, are never even aware that we are playing.

Yet we play it and play it hard, every day, every moment of every day, in a vain hope to ‘win’.

So that we can look good to others.

So that we can appear tough, talented, intelligent, sophisticated, successful, big, powerful, capable, prosperous, neat, independent, influential, cool, manly or womanly…

All so that can be thought of well by others, looked upon with accepting eyes, and, ultimately, we hope, be worthy of love and belonging.

The funny thing is, that all this effort and energy and time lost and impediments to our self-expression and freedom and joy is only there because we’re each jockeying for position against each other.

The stakes are there only because we are ongoingly creating the stakes with others around us.

We all feel the subconscious need to play the game only because we’re already all subconsciously playing it.

If we all just gave it up, there’d be no need to win.

If we all noticed what we’re doing, and stopped creating the stakes, there’d be no need to even play the game.

We could just be.

Architecture Monday

This is a nifty little building experiment.  Starting with the humble brick wall, this renovation explores quasi-thickening the exterior façade to provide both texture as well as interior utility.

The result is this rich brick wall laid out in this checkerboard pattern of solid and void, whether windows or actual void at the top where a roof terrace resides.  The thickening part comes from pushing in each edge of the checkerboard to create a waffle of alcoves.  On the outside, each of the windows is pushed in, allowing for plants and greenery to grace the city.

Within, each of these alcoves are used for built-in desks, shelving, seating, or other furniture.  Windows alternate from low to high, a sculptural assemblage that brings visual interest and also lets light penetrate deep within the units.

This is cool.  It takes a local tradition and building material, and uses it in a new way to create a nifty face to the city (+ greenery) while also doing double duty and trying out something different for the apartments inside.  Plus the name of the project is a lot of fun:

“Operation Between Walls” by Natura Futura Arquitectura