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Live Not by Lies

Live Not by Lies

Perhaps you have seen the fantastic series Chernobyl. One of my favorite parts was the ending when Valery Legasov gives this amazing speech. His summary on the cause of the Chernobyl disaster? Lies.

This scene is a direct and clear reference to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn amazing “Live Not by Lies“. It was published the day he was arrested and exiled in 1974. In it he exhorts his fellow Soviet citizens to no longer cooperate with the Soviet regime’s lies.

It’s definitely worth a read in the world that seems increasingly happy to wrap themselves in the blanket of what we want to believe. We pick echo chambers that reflect what we want to hear and cut off the very lifeblood of truth from ourselves by shutting opposing voices out or canceling people. Instead of actually believing that truth is something that can and will stand on it’s own no matter what is thrown at it – we now hold to ‘our truth‘ which is little more than opinion and almost always collapses in the face of any real study or facts. We cling to these opinions and avoid thinking critically about our own position nor engage in the charity work of dialog and debate with opponents so the best answers can be found by all.

We now even choose to believe lies when those lies fly in the face of science – such as proven environmental or biological science. But reality doesn’t care what we believe or feel – it exists outside ourselves. If you choose not to wear your seatbelt because you don’t believe in them – the physics of a car crash will correct your mistaken opinion. If you choose to ignore vaccinations or deny your chromosomal makeup – your genes or biological invaders will exert themselves no matter what you want to believe.

When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there.
But it is still there.
Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.

The question is: how bad is the price when that happens? Some lies only hurt ourselves or do injuries to another’s reputation. Chernobyl shows, however, even seemingly simple lies can also cause disastrous consequences – often far greater than people imagined who simply hid a small design problem.

Lies have a cost. Live Not by Lies.

Oregon passes first hurdle to pump your own gas

Oregon passes first hurdle to pump your own gas

Oregon is one of only 2 states that still has a 50’s era laws banning customers from pumping their own gas. This has been changing though. Several counties in sparsely populated areas of eastern Oregon have been allow you to pump your own gas for the last few years. During recent heat waves, snow storms, and COVID – residents have been increasingly able to pump their own gas.

That might become permanent as a repeal on the ban just passed the Oregon house. It now only has to pass the Oregon senate.

What will that day be like? Some have suggesting Oregonians are utterly doomed like this:

Or maybe this:

What Science Says Brings Happiness

What Science Says Brings Happiness

You can’t go 5 minutes on the internet or grocery story news stand aisle without some ‘expert’ telling you how to be happy. Getting enough sleep! Doing what you want! Have great sex, eat the right foods, etc. I found Arthur C. Brooks – who happens to be a happiness professor at Harvard. Here’s some scientific findings on happiness. As it turns out, most of this is not new wisdom…

  • Neurophysiology tells us that dopamine highs we get from acquiring new things (big achievements, a fancy car, taking a big trip, possessions, big promotions, winning the lottery, etc) only last a short time. Then it quickly goes away and we must go looking for more. Studies show the real formula for happiness looks like the below. The better way to be happy, the easier way, is if you focus on reducing the denominator and being happy by wanting less. This part of the equation is almost completely in your control – but requires wisdom to know what things we really need vs just want. (PS: Jesus taught this and millennium of monks, Christians and other faiths know this to be true).
  • Gratitude is an important part of being happy. A lot of folks just live in their limbic systems (your emotions/feelings) and largely go wherever their emotions lead them (ex: desire, fear, laziness, etc) Instead, start engaging your frontal cortex and choose to be grateful by making the decision to focus on things you are grateful for. Taking ownership of your emotions with your frontal cortex (thinking) in gratitude is guaranteed to make you happier.
  • Social media is the junk food of happiness. Our bodies crave Oxytocin which is generated only via in-person interactions with people when we make eye contact or touch. Social media delivers none of that. Science bears out that there are many more even worse psychological and social effects. His advice: only use social media to complement real in-person relationships and use all social media for less than 30 minutes a day across all platforms. (PS: one of the longest health studies has shown relationships are THE biggest indicator of long life and happiness. Christians have long understood the teachings of Jesus lead us to healthy relationships. Most importantly your relationship with God, which leads us to the next item)
  • Purpose and happiness comes from answering these 2 questions. If you don’t have an answer for those questions, you WILL suffer existential crisis and dread. (PS: What is the meaning of life?)
    • Why am I alive?
    • What would I be willing to die for?
  • You hit your happiness bottom at age 45 (across all cultures) then it increases from that point on – unless you have untreated mental health or addictions issues. A little after 50 years old most people finally realize that we can and often do lose those things we thought were important to have for happiness. We also learn that those loses ultimately don’t matter because even then the pain doesn’t last forever either. Finally, it is a very good reason to seek help for mental health and addiction issues as early as possible because they will hold you back your whole life.
  • Sitting around making memories by constantly instagraming your life is the backwards mental time travel that robs you of your life. When doing that, you are mentally living in the future looking back., From that imagined future, you are pretending you are living now as if it was the past (I’m taking pictures now so I can remember this time later). The problem? You just missed your life. NOW is the only part of your life you have. If you’re like many people that spend 30-50% of your time thinking about the future, you are largely missing your life now. (PS The mindfulness practice of living in the now is exactly mirrored in Jesus teaching)
  • Your ability to innovate, think quickly, and solve problems in knowledge jobs peaks in your 30’s. The wisdom curve, however starts in your 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and comes from leading, teaching, sharing, and recognizing what things really mean.
Harvard Adult Development Study

Harvard Adult Development Study

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is probably one of the longest studies done over 75 years of the same people. Some came from the poorest parts of society, while others were Harvard members. What turned out to make them happiest and live longest was not their cholesterol numbers, success, money, nor fame.

The findings? The quality and satisfaction of their relationships is the most important index of longer life, happiness, and health than any other marker. Loneliness was one of the highest indicators of later physical and mental health issues. Even if the relationships had difficulties and bickering – the most important key attribute is that they knew when the chips were down they could count on their partner.

If you want to live longer and happier, it might be time to re-kindle a stagnating relationship or building new healthy relationships. Holding grudges, unforgiveness, or not kindling loving relationships is just as damaging to you as heart disease. Surprisingly, these are the very things that Jesus taught us.

Chat with an Exorcist

Chat with an Exorcist

I had not seen Fr Chad Ripperger’s videos before, but I think he’s spot on in his observations about trends we see going on in the world. What’s interesting is that his observations are independently backed up by many scientific studies about happiness, social media, and news reporting.

This shouldn’t be shocking that science is slowly confirming many of the very core beliefs that Jesus and the Catholic Church have taught about what brings us happiness and fulfilling lives. Contrary to Hollywood’s incorrect take on religion as anti-science, Catholics believe religion and science are not in conflict but in unity for centuries. Certainly longer than most every current country on earth. Some of the most famous scientific discoveries such as physics (Newton), genetics (Gregory Mendel), and even the Big Bang (co-discoverer Fr. Georges LemaĆ®tre) were theists or religious who never saw a conflict with their faith – quite the contrary in almost all cases.

So when it comes to human behaviors and social trends, it should be no surprise that the teachings of Christ tell us how we should and shouldn’t act as well. What things bring division, hatred, destruction, and evil – and which bring joy, peace, and relationship. Give his talk a listen. Even if you don’t believe in God or don’t like the words ‘spiritual warfare’ – you should see that the core ideas and teaching are still correct whatever words you’d like to use.

Parallel Sound from the Past

Parallel Sound from the Past

Back in the 90’s, computer audio devices were really limited. If you were relatively rich, you could afford a $150 Sound Blaster, or maybe a $75 Adlib. If not, you were limited to the very humble PC speaker. It turns out, however, there was one other option that didn’t get a lot of visibility.

The Covox Speech Thing (and a similar device called the Disney Sound Source) was an external audio device attached to the printer port and could output digitally generated sound. The device was a criminally simple 8-bit DAC created with a resistor ladder, an analogue output plug, and ran off simple digital signals from the printer port of the PC. How simple was it? So simple you can easily make it yourself.

Necroware does a great job covering the device, how to make your own, and gives you a full tour of the device as well as 90’s software you can use with it. Most notably, Tracker software which gave me tons of fond memories.

Links:

How to Market your Game in 2022

How to Market your Game in 2022

Chris Zukowski helps lots of game developers market their games. He goes over the most recent data and shows the best practices for marketing your game on Steam. It’s an interesting mix of understanding your market and how to manage the algorithms on various platforms to maximize your wishlist subscription rate.

  1. The genre of your game is probably THE most important deciding factor if you’re going to do well financially. Passion side projects can be anything, but genre matters if you need to make money. Some genres are cash cows while others will likely be near dead ends.
  2. Steam wishlists before ship are THE new success metric for your upcoming game. Your goal is to generate a tipping point of people who wishlist your game before shipping (TLDR: it is about 7000 wishlist subscribers). Once over that point, you will start showing up in the Steam popular upcoming games lists. Without that – good luck getting found.
    • Wishlists convert into purchases at launch at one of the highest levels of marketing (wishlists convert at 1-20% – most good internet marketing is a 2% conversion)
    • Getting potential buyers to add you to their Steam wishlist do not come fast nor easy. It takes dedication, consistent effort, and time. This is good because you can try lots of different things over that time. You’ll need to do lots of campaigns covering the game 1-2 years before ship to get to your goal count of wishlist adds.
  3. Steam capsules (the little graphic that shows up in the store for your game)
    • You must remember: More people will see your steam capsule ad than will even buy it. It must draw them in and tell them everything. There are unwritten visual rules about how these are made for different genres (crafting games have to have a hammer, space games must have spaceship rear-ends, etc)
    • It must be highest quality thing you make – do whatever you can to hire a good artist if you spend no other money
  4. Promotions – 90% of your new Steam wishlist adds will come from online festivals and streamer coverage. Period. Here’s where you’ll find your highest ROI (in order):
    • Do online festivals! Do not do in-person festivals, they are a waste of time/effort/money. You’ll get many more exposures via an online festival than you could ever hope to get in even the most fantastic in-person weekend festival.
    • How do you find online events? https://howtomaketagame.com/discord – look for #EVENT-REMINDERS
    • Streamers – you must have a demo they can play immediately. The demo should be kept up basically forever so they can come back, others can try, etc.
      • Find streamers you want to target on SullyGnome or playboard.co. They break down streamer demographics so you can find ones that play your genre.
    • From this point and below, results will be an order of magnitude less:
    • Tik-tok has been somewhat good but has an uncertain future with possible bans coming.
    • Reddit – chancy but can work if you find your target audience.
    • Press – has decreased a good bit but does still work.
    • Twitter/Imgur/social media – pretty much does not work. Almost everyone gets lower than 100 Wishlist adds via this method – even at their best.

AI trained to get images from MRI brain scans

AI trained to get images from MRI brain scans

The top is the image the person saw, the bottom image is what the AI re-created from their brain scans

Researchers at Osaka University in Japan are among the ranks of scientists using A.I. to make sense of human brain scans. While others have tried using AI with MRI scans to visualize what people are seeing, the Osaka approach is unique because it used Stable Diffusion to generate the images. This greatly simplified their model so it required only a few thousands, instead of millions, of training parameters.

Normally, Stable Diffusion takes text descriptions/prompts which are run through a language model. That language model is trained against a huge library of images to generate a text-to-image latent space that can be queried to generate new amalgamated images (yes, a gross simplification).

The Osaka researchers took this one step further. The researchers used functional MRI (fMRI) scans from an earlier, unrelated study in which four participants looked at 10,000 different images of people, landscapes and objects while being monitored in an fMRI. The Osaka team then trained a second A.I. model to link brain activity in fMRI data with text descriptions of the pictures the study participants looked at.

Together, these two models allowed Stable Diffusion to turn fMRI data into relatively accurate images that were not part of the A.I. training set. Based on the brain scans, the first model could recreate the perspective and layout that the participant had seen, but its generated images were of cloudy and nonspecific figures. But then the second model kicked in, and it could recognize what object people were looking at by using the text descriptions from the training images. So, if it received a brain scan that resembled one from its training marked as a person viewing an airplane, it would put an airplane into the generated image, following the perspective from the first model. The technology achieved roughly 80 percent accuracy.

The team shared more details in a new paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, published on the preprint server bioRxiv.

Links:

Portland Winter Light Festival

Portland Winter Light Festival

The Portland Winter Light festival has been going on for 8 years now. I love going to visit the amazing artistic light creations people create – as well some quality people watching of folks that dress up in their own light costume creations.

While it wasn’t quite as amazing as it has been in years past, there were noticeably fewer new displays, and crowds were dramatically down, it was still a lot of fun to enjoy.

Get a Celebrity Cameo for your next event

Get a Celebrity Cameo for your next event

Ever wanted to get a personalized message from your favorite actor, musician, athlete, or other celebrity?

Cameo is a website that lets you request a short personalized video from famous actor. For usually around $150-$1500 you can get a customized short video message from your favorite star to celebrate a wedding, birthday, special event, or just about any occasion.