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Michael Powell
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Michael Powell

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At +Kenton Varda's last LAN party, we played a bunch of Rocket League, and I've been continuing to play in the days since. It's basically soccer with rocket cars, and actually manages to be substantially MORE fun than that sounds.

Of course, one of the cardinal truths of rocket league is that basically everybody is basically terrible at it basically all the time. When you go to hit the ball, more often than not you'll go under it, or jump over it, or just drive right next to. Sometimes the ball will bounce and like 4 cars will all leap for it at once and careen off each other and completely missing the ball. And I've seen numerous occasions of people knocking the ball into their own goal. And yes, done this a few times myself.

This is part of the game's charm. It's not that the controls are bad. On the contrary, they're excellently smooth and responsive. It's just that playing ball with rocket cars is an intrinsically very hard thing to do!

Then I saw this article. Until you've played the game a bit, it's hard to appreciate the intense, almost incomprehensible level of skill that each of these plays demonstrates. (Well, except the first one, which I'm convinced was pure luck. But it's still awesome.)
Head this way for more ;gratuitous goals and sumptuous saves.
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And if somebody is not arranging an e-sport tournament for this yet, that's a serious missed opportunity.

Someone like +Lex P maybe?
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Michael Powell

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Once again seeing the "prejudice + power" definition of racism and sexism being espoused by people I very much respect. And it still feels counter-productive to me. A part of me is tempted to write out a long blog post describing exactly why this is problematic, a more in-depth version of the G+ post I made about this a while back (https://plus.google.com/103915652954123255380/posts/NSCMjpphW2u), but actually on a proper blogging platform this time.

Unfortunately, then I feel like just another white male telling women and people of color how to fight bigotry against them. And I don't want to be that guy. Yet, I've still not seen any convincing points that this is useful, and I see some pretty compelling reasons why it's actively harmful, such that it pains me every time I see it espoused.
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Michael Powell's profile photoKenton Varda's profile photo
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I've pretty much decided never to comment publicly on these topics. It's too risky; lots of well-meaning people get burned when they try.
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Michael Powell

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Instacart has added the ability to see what your shopper is putting in your cart in real time, and chat at your shopper. So now I have the ability to see the incorrect replacements as they happen, and get ignored when I ask for corrections. Lovely.

(I may also just have a particularly inept shopper tonight. If these substitutions stand when I get my order, they'll be getting a bad report.)
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Michael Powell's profile photoDan Morrill's profile photoKit Bruce's profile photo
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I am intrigued by this new feature, but also see the ways in which it could go wrong (like in your example above). It'll be interesting how this plays out in the long run.
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Michael Powell

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People often believe that AI will never be able to generate real art, the way humans can, that art will be the last human endeavor to survive the upcoming wave of automation.

Looking at these images extracted from image analysis neutral networks, though, I start to doubt that. As we set simple AIs to analyze our existing bodies of art, and the worlds they represent, I suspect we'll find them increasingly capable of reproducing their own artistic interpretations of their essence, without even necessarily truly comprehending them.

The hard test will be media with more explicit stories. Books, movies, video games, etc.
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Michael Powell

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Brilliant displays of electromancy (and occasional stupidity).

(Link from +Michael Bunting via +Lat Ware.)
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Michael Powell

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Do MRAs really hate Fury Road?

(As a prefix to this post, yes, I consider myself a feminist, or at least feminist-ally. I don't actually consider myself an MRA. I follow and admire +Anita Sarkeesian+Brianna Wu, John Scalzi, and numerous other prominent "SJWs", and agree with most of what they have to say. But not necessarily everything.)

There's been a lot of hoopla lately about all the MRA boycott of Fury Road. +Punning Pundit just posted a very good article about the feminism in Fury Road, which I read through... And then I continued on to the comment section. I know, this sounds like a terrible mistake, but I saw something fascinating there.

After a comment joking about the MRA boycott, a number of self-proclaimed MRAs (or friends of MRAs) disavowing the viewpoints being ascribed to them. In this case, they were all claiming to have watched and enjoyed this movie, and stated the supposed MRA boycott was largely fabricated. (See this comment thread: http://www.npr.org/2015/05/15/406731120/the-women-pull-no-punches-in-fiery-feminist-mad-max#comment-2026795787)

So what's going on? Well, all of these articles point to one specific blog post, made by one Aaron Clarey. So I dug a little bit, and Aaron Clarey seems to be just as much of a misogynistic douchebag as he sounds in his article (http://www.returnofkings.com/63036/why-you-should-not-go-see-mad-max-feminist-road). But, see his follow-up article (http://www.returnofkings.com/63711/our-call-to-boycott-mad-max-movie-spurs-avalanche-of-mainstream-media-anger) in which he states very clearly that he's not an MRA. The MRAs are disavowing him, and he's disavowing the MRAs. So he's not an MRA. He's just a misogynistic asshole.

So there's a thing that frequently happens when one group of people decide they don't like another group. They find the most extreme, disgusting and problematic elements within this group they don't like, and hold it up as representative of the whole. Conservatives do this to liberals, and liberals do it to conservatives. MRAs do this to feminists, and feminists do it to MRAs. And it becomes this insidiously infectious, self-perpetuating anger-meme (as described in this brilliant video I posted a while back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc)

And sometimes, as is happening here, they're grabbing somebody who isn't even part of the hated group. He merely resembles their image of what MRAs are like, so they assign him to the group.

The really sad part is, MRAs and feminists mostly want EXACTLY THE SAME THING. The first and foremost issue of the MRA movement is problematic male gender roles. That is, they want to fix toxic masculinity, and through that fix much of the gender inequality in our society. The MRA movement is FOR men being able to talk about their feelings, for it being acceptable to be stay-at-home dads, not always the bread-winner, for their sense of self-worth to not be measured by their dominance and by how much sex they have. I've seen prominent feminist icons, including +Anita Sarkeesian, make these exact same points.

So MRAs and feminists should be allies. They honestly shouldn't even be two separate movements. Unfortunately, the anger-meme that feminism is entirely composed of man-hating misandrists had already taken such root in some parts of our society that the budding MRA movement thought (incorrectly, but understandably) that feminism's goals ran to unfortunate and problematic extremes. And since many MRAs held to this view on feminism, the feminists who saw this movement understandably responded in disgust, and proceeded to assign all varieties of offensive anti-feminist views to them.

Which is how PUAs came to be conflated with MRAs, despite the fact that their views on masculinity couldn't more different. When Elliot Rodgers went on his rampage, it was held up as evidence for why the MRA movement was toxic... Despite the fact that he had never had any connection to that movement. But he DID have connections to the PUA movement (which is legitimately terrible), and his rhetoric was completely consistent with theirs. But MRA was being used by feminists as this umbrella label for anti-feminists, and thus "MRA" and "PUA" were treated as equivalent.

And you know what? There are some legitimately terrible, offensive people with horrible viewpoints who ARE part of the MRA movement. But I've also seen a number of legitimately terrible, offensive people with horrible viewpoints who are part of the feminist movement. But those of us who align ourselves with feminism know those people aren't really representative of the movement as a whole. They don't speak for us. So why do we assume that the worst elements of the MRAs speak for the whole movement?

These two groups have been so focused on these caricatures of each other, right from the start, that they've never had the chance to see eye-to-eye. It's fucked up and toxic, and I have no idea what to do about it, beyond railing at the problem on this G+ post that will probably not convince anybody.
Mad Max: Fury Road reboots a testosterone-fueled franchise with some tough new female characters. Director George Miller says women were an organic element as he rethought the original movies.
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Tony Sidaway's profile photoJoel “Excellerator” Watkins's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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+Joel Watkins I don't really disagree much with that. I think the real core of what I'm getting at here is:

A) The core of the MRA movement, while maybe a bit misguided, does have some noble and reasonable goals which actually align pretty well with feminism.

B) The MRAs are not a catch-all for all anti-feminist sentiment. There are many groups which align themselves against feminism, with many different agendas. Many of them, such as PUAs, are directly opposed to MRAs. It's a mistake to lump them all together.

And there's a reason this matters.

The non-radical core of the MRA movement only dislikes feminism because they think it's a thing it's not. If you listed off all the core principles of modern feminism, they'd likely agree with most or all of them. I've even encountered some self-proclaimed MRAs online who have come to realize this, and express support for feminism.

Which means there is hope for getting through to the rest of them. But only if we stop demonizing and otherizing them, and treat them like reasonable human beings, who just happen to have a few understandably wrong opinions.
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Michael Powell

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"Gigster fixes this problem by assigning a project manager to handle 100 percent of the management of your developers and be your sole point of contact. If the project is behind schedule, Gigster just assigns more developers to it or fires under-performing ones so it gets done on time."

Brilliant management techniques there. "The project's going slow, add some more engineers and fire the bad ones!" It works every time!

I foresee a train wreck.
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Christina Tom's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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Is there a corollary to Poe's Law, which states that any sufficient level of crazy is indistinguishable from satire?
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Michael Powell

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This is an amazingly detailed and well-researched piece on the battle over GMOs.

While it doesn't come out and say it, the statistics cited indicated that the anti-GMO movement may actually be much more harmful than the anti-vaccine movement, and involves just as much misinformation.
Is genetically engineered food dangerous? Many people seem to think it is. In the past five years, companies have submitted more than 27,000 products to the Non-GMO Project, which certifies goods that are free of genetically modified organisms. Last year, sales of such products nearly tripled. Whole Foods will soon...
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Oh, and a further point on vertical farming: In the long run, that's going to be a wonderful thing. But, right now, it's super expensive to deploy, especially by the standards of 3rd world countries. And people are dying of malnutrition in those places right now. Not because there isn't enough food, but because there isn't enough of the RIGHT foods.

Like the millions dying of vitamin A deficiency while the anti-GMO lobbies hold up the (free non-corporate) distribution of golden rice.
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Michael Powell

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I saw Ex Machina today. This is the kind of movie that really leaves an impression. It was dark, fucked up and uncompromising, but it was also brilliant and intensely powerful. It jumps headlong into some really sticky and uncomfortable situations, and handles them with perfect elegance. The movie frequently left me feeling uncomfortable, but it was clear I was SUPPOSED to feel uncomfortable. The discomfort was put there intentionally, to make a point.

The movie also BADLY needs some trigger warnings, for Non-Consent, Cutting and Imposter Syndrome.

My girlfriend +Tysa Rauch thought very highly of the movie, but also described her discomfort afterwords as feeling like she needed to crawl out of her skin. The trigger warnings wouldn't have prevented her from seeing it, but they would have allowed her to mentally prepare herself so she could handle it better.
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Mark Bruce's profile photoSara Beroff's profile photoKit Bruce's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photo
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I'd be interested in talking it over with both of you, +Sara Beroff and +Kit Bruce, and getting your thoughts.

Aside from a fascinating take on AI, it touches on a lot of tricky issues with gender roles and subtle (and occasionally less subtle) racism and sexism.
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Michael Powell

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Based on misunderstanding a description of The Quest from a post by +Ember Leo, there's a show I think really badly needs to be made.

Pull together a small group of top-notch LARP GMs, and have them carefully craft a very long-running LARP. Lots of world detail, full back stories for everything, and tons of hooks for all the characters.

Then pull together a solid crew of improvisational actors to play this LARP. Back them up with professional make-up artists and costume designers. Run it in an appropriate location, with some professional prop design to flesh it out.

Then film the whole thing. Edit out the boring bits, maybe even add some special effects in post-production.

And now, you've got TV drama with fascinating, unpredictable twists and turns, and the kind of clever political maneuvering which few writers could hope to capture.
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Nate Gaylinn's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoEmber Leo's profile photoKit Bruce's profile photo
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I would watch the hell out of this.
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Michael Powell

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Aside from the ground-breaking feminism (by the standards of action movies, at least), and being just a generally solid movie, the best part of Mad Max: Fury Road was the fellow I've been calling the War Guitarist. He's apparently actually called the Doof Warrior, and it's awesome to realize every aspect of his performance was real, practical effects.

Warning: Article contains minor spoilers
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Michael Powell

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It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.

MLK, 1968.  Not today, 1968.
http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/
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    Software Engineer, 2011 - present
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