# Log: 6/05/2021

06.05.2021

This week: Comfort with contradictions, anime and Gen Z

## Dialetheism and Eastern Philosophy

We recently finished watching The Good Place, which was very sweet. Overall I enjoyed it, but there was one plot hole that I was disappointed to see left unaddressed, I'll leave it in the footnotes to avoid spoilers1.

The other disappointment is the show's heavy (maybe exclusive) reliance on Western philosophy2 I don't really blame the show for this because it's just an enormous problem in how philosophy is taught in general. Something else that would have been nice to include is a reckoning with the extraordinary racism of Kant (see the previous link for some examples).

That's all to say that after the show I wanted to read more on non-Western ethical systems. This interview introduced me to the idea of "paraconsistency" and I got sidetracked into reading about dialetheism, which is the view that statements can be both true and false (in orthodox logics statements can only be one or the other; such inconsistencies "explode", i.e. entail everything to be true). The simplest example is the Liar's Paradox, which in one sentence is "this statement is false". My understanding is that under dialetheism this statement is not a paradox and to be rejected but accepted as-is.

As the SEP entry on dialetheism explains, dialetheism shows up a lot in Eastern philosophies (as well as in Western philosophy: dialectics, for example). The Daodejing and Zhuangzi are riddled with them. "The Way of the Dialetheist: Contradictions in Buddhism" (Yasuo, Garfield, Priest) gives an overview of how dialetheism shows up in Buddhism, describe some interpretative possibilities: are they presented as literal/true, or are they used as rhetorical/pedagogical tools for insight (as in Zen)?

My own understanding is usually that these apparent contradictions are not actually the case—for example, a common form is to say that thing X has property Y and Z such that those simultaneously having two properties is inconsistent/impossible, which I often take to mean "thing X" refers to our term for X and not X itself; and that in fact that term refers to two things that are different. For example, "race is real and not real" could refer to how race is not "real" as in it is an immutable part of the universe but is still "real" as social reality—as something that feels total and inescapable in our lives.

But this interpretation doesn't work in many cases. When Buddha says "the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth", that seems to be more of a straight-up contradiction.

## Welcome to Planet Egirl, Cecilia D'Anastasio

I definitely feel old given how much more I've been reading about subcultures through publications like Wired rather than experiencing them. But I'm struck by how much anime has influenced Gen Z and how visible/trendy it is, whereas for my generation it was an almost clandestine activity. Ariel brought up a good question: is this a popularization of Japanophilic culture or is anime being separated out? Anime production is still more or less the exclusive domain of Japan as far as I'm aware.

1. To get Michael to understand human ethics they have him confront his own mortality, which I take to mean that human ethics is grounded human mortality. But once you're in the afterlife, you're no longer mortal. So why would you still be judged according to an ethical standard that no longer applies to you?

2. I hoped that the afterlife-ending gateway would actually lead them to be reincarnated; it would have been a nice gesture at non-Western conceptions of the afterlife and set a stage for introducing different ethics systems.

# Log: 5/28/2021

05.28.2021

This week: The secularization/Westernization of Buddhism, IDEO, UFOs/UAPs, and #fixingfashion.

## Questions on the origins of Buddhist concepts and Is secular Buddhism looked down upon in the Buddhist community?

Very interesting to read these threads on secularized/western Buddhism—which tries to "sanitize" Buddhism of its more fantastical elements. The western presentation often boils down to something like: "life is suffering, suffering is driven by desire, end desire to escape suffering". Maybe the notion of karma remains because it's in line with other western folk wisdom (e.g. "what goes around comes around"), but other elements like rebirth or that the Buddha had supernatural insight/powers are dismissed as nonsense. Even what it means to be "enlightened", as one commenter notes, is different under this secularized view: "Do you imagine that enlightenment just means feeling calm?". Maybe this kind of secularization or tampering down is a typical course for religions—thinking about secular Jews and most Christians I've met don't believe angels are real—but with Buddhism in particular it has strong colonialist overtones (usually from white people and with some implication that people who do believe in the supernatural elements are backwards/ignorant for doing so—unenlightened in the sense of "the Enlightenment").

I don't necessarily mind secular Buddhism as a concept (the problem is more the industry around it and its extractive/appropriative nature) but it's this attempt to re-write the historical image of the Buddha to conform to those beliefs—such that there exists an "authentic Buddhism" that does away with the elements you don't like—that is upsetting.

## Surviving IDEO, George Aye

I worked at IDEO almost a decade ago—it was my first "real" job out of college, and so I didn't have any prior office experience to compare things to, but it was clear that there was a lot of kool-aid to drink and a lot of people drank it. I joined as part of a new team that was separate from the company's typical design consulting work (we were brought into help out with specific technical needs here and there) and so I was fortunate enough to be insulated from a lot of the broader office politics, pettiness, and discrimination outlined in this piece. Given the general lack of self-awareness the place has—e.g. speaking really highly of its practice as world-transformative but basically doing little but intensify capitalism's entrenchment in all aspects of our lives1 (I remember quite a bit of the work was basically creating new luxury offerings for financial institutions)—what's outlined here is sadly not very surprising.

Related to this topic: I recommend "It's Not You, It's the System" by Janani Balasubramanian. This piece was helpful for me in deciding whether or not to quit IDEO.

## How the Pentagon Started Taking U.F.O.s Seriously, Gideon Lewis-Kraus

As a kid I liked the idea of extraterrestrial life and thought things like Fermi's Paradox and the Drake Equation were really fascinating (although the Drake Equation seemed almost arbitrary/impractical). A number of games I played growing up also built stories around aliens, like Dinosaur Safari (aliens going back in time to document dinosaurs) and The Journeyman Project 3: Legacy of Time (an "ancient aliens"-style game set in the mythical cities of Atlantis, El Dorado, and Shangri-La that, though the story was based around aliens, taught quite a bit about the actual ancient cultures these cities were inspired by). But aside from reading about these topics here and there I never got very deep into UFOs and the like. It felt like a cliff's edge into unsubstantiated and woo conspiracy theories. At the same time, it seemed reasonable that there would be some phenomena that is difficult to explain, and that in itself was interesting without needing to jump to the conclusion of aliens. This article explores that latter space, and also goes over a campaign meant to consign UFOs and an interest in them into the former conspiratorial category (read: "crazy"), effectively making the topic untouchable if you want to be considered legitimate. I'm skeptical that anything really earth-shattering will come out of June's UAP report but who knows, maybe something interesting will happen.

## #fixingfashion videos

A really well-produced and comprehensive series on how to take care of your clothes, repair them, and modify them:

A bunch of my clothing recently got several rips, and repairing them has been a nice way to keep my hands busy on long meetings.

Here's the most recent repair I did—you can see the smaller yellow patches where I underestimated how large patches actually need to be relative to the size of the hole. The edges of those patches ended up tearing, leading to the substantially larger sashiko patch there now.

1. You could maybe point to IDEO.org as a counter-example but I'm not really familiar with their work and I'd guess they have their own issues.

# Fugue Devlog 13: More World Modeling

05.14.2021

Very busy with some other things so not much progress as of late. I've mostly been modeling more assets for the world map, which has forced me to think more thoroughly on what each city might look like. I don't feel totally ready to commit to anything I've made yet though.

Modeling and texturing are very time consuming processes, even with the low-res look I'm going for. I'm convinced that 99% of the time spent working on the game will be modeling and texturing.

I find modeling very meditative and enjoyable, though for the map the things I've been modeling are much bigger (e.g. buildings and cities), and for some reason that's a lot more daunting. It might be because larger objects need more details to look convincing. Modeling smaller objects is a lot nicer.

One thing that hasn't helped is that Blender (2.92) constantly crashes. I'm not sure what the cause is because it doesn't save a crash log.

Texturing is the slowest part of the process. Building the textures can be time-consuming: collecting the images, processing them and then assembling them into a single texture, editing parts to be seamless, etc. Most if not all of this can't really be automated or streamlined much further than they already are. One thing I'm trying to keep in mind is that because of the low-res style I can usually get away with low-resolution textures, which makes searching for appropriate ones a lot quicker (in particular: stacking islands together—kind of baffling that this isn't a part of Blender).

I'm also still learning workflow tips for faster UV editing. Blender's built-in UV editing tools are also kind of lacking, but I learned of TexTools which has helped make some aspects of it a lot quicker.

I'm also experimenting with how much I want to rely on free 3d models from elsewhere. For the megaflora on the map (see below) I'm using this model of a borage flower (organic shapes are harder for me to do quickly) but processing and editing it to better fit into the game also takes a decent amount of time.

This city, inspired by the Ganden Sumtsenling Monastery that I visited many years ago, was so tedious to texture, mostly because I was selecting and positioning faces in a really clumsy way:

This pagoda was pretty quick to model, mostly because the UV editing is relatively simple, but also because I'd started using TexTools:

I'll spend some time watching videos on more UV editing tips to see if I can make the process less tedious.

# Log: 5/14/2021

05.14.2021

This week: This week was very busy so I didn't have much time to read. In addition to an uptick in work obligations we spent most of our spare time uprooting as much knotweed as we could. Throughout the process I very much appreciated how useful my trowel was, which I used mostly as a lever and not as a shovel. In that spirit I have a few selections of interesting agriculture tools/equipment (for harvest specifically).

This kind of violent mechanical vibration is common, and the idea that the most efficient way to harvest from a tree is to just shake the shit out of it is kind of funny:

For olive trees I've also seen these weed-whacker-like devices used:

There's also this gnarly looking machine:

There's a whole YouTube microgenre for mechanized harvesters:

Hand tools are way more interesting:

As a bonus, I was shared this CDC document on farmer ergonomics (h/t Eli). It includes not only advice on movements that reduce repetitive stress injuries but also equipment like the berry rake above and this harvest cart:

# Fugue Devlog 12: The World, the Story, and the Game Mechanics

05.10.2021

The last week has mostly been a lot of waffling about game mechanics. Should characters have skills/attributes? Should there be any combat, and if so, what should it be like? Are there any "skill games" (like the hacking mini-games that are so prevalent in games)? I originally threw around the idea of there being these kinds of mini-games for different character skills, like repairing machinery or cooking food.

I'm leaning towards just sticking to the dialogue system as the main "mechanic" and seeing how far I can stretch that. If there's any combat, it could be interesting to use the dialogue system for that—in games like Final Fantasy 7, combat is basically through a set of menus, which isn't all that different than the dialogue system I've set up. Or combat happening through dialogue choices as skill checks, like in Disco Elysium (h/t Matt). This is just an example—in practice, there will be very little combat if any in the game. Other skill games/mini-games could take place through the dialogue system too. I like this approach because it gives me a constraint (and so makes the task of coming up with mechanics a bit less daunting) and also lets me hone the dialogue system further.

I'm not totally confident in that decision; I have a weird premature regret about not including other mechanics because I'm worried the play experience will feel lacking. At the same time, I know that plenty of games that are basically just dialogue are really, really good. There are a couple of systems, like law and organizational resource management, I want to include in the game, but these don't necessarily translate into new mechanics (i.e. they can probably be expressed through the dialogue system). I think I just have to stick with this decision for now and be open-minded about something changing later.

One reason I'm hesitant about introducing more mechanics is that the branching narrative will already introduce a lot of complexity, requiring a lot more dialogue and scenes and what not for each branching path. It might be too much as-is: I've also spent some time trying to think through the world and narrative to have a better feel for how much branching and different scenes there'll be, and it's shaping up to be a lot.

I also started laying out the geography of the world. The various regions are developed according to a few priorities: the aesthetic priority/what feeling that landscape evokes; its implications on the geopolitics and history of the world; how geologically feasible they are. For the latter point everything is inspired by real formations/environments, but the spatial arrangement needs to be feasible, like where should the mountain ranges be? What biomes should be near them?

To help answer these questions I read a bit about how mountains, rivers, and so on work. There were several helpful guides on mountain formation, rivers and watersheds, general advice on the map design and vegetation. This channel has several videos on not only these topics but also on mineral deposits, wind, and more.

This procedural map generator also helped give some base material to shape.

I figure once I have a map it will make sorting out additional details a bit easier. I can ask it questions or think through how the existing factions and cities would maneuver through the world instead of coming up with ideas out of thin air and then trying to make them all fit together. For example: placing one city (Baita City) on a major river that empties out into a bay (Bao Bay) which is the location of another major city. If trade occurs mostly along the coast of the land, then Bao Bay can unilaterally blockade Baita City, so Baita City might want to develop a land route to the other major city. But perhaps the only viable path is expensive or dangerous to develop so Baita City can't do so until some new technology makes it feasible. But once that happens it dramatically shifts the relationship between Baita City and Bao Bay. Similarly, the character and culture of a settlement is going to be influenced by its geography so this also helps me have a stronger idea of what the cities look and feel like.

Here's what I have so far:

I need to work out the two smaller islands, fill in more details of the mainland, and add in settlements. I had a pretty good workflow going using Blender's vertex coloring to paint on different terrain textures, but for some reason the vertex color limit is set to 8 (really annoying), so I have to figure out a different approach now.

This part of the process is such an emotional roller coaster, at times overwhelming from the possibilities/uncertainty, daunting from all the work different decisions imply, frightening because of all the ways things could go wrong, anxiety-inducing from the possibility of foreclosing certain mechanics or world/narrative features by committing to choices, or satisfying when pieces start to click together. In any case, it's not something that I can rush. The world's regions, factions, and narrative arc are coming together...but very slowly.