Truth itself is an enigma. Truth might be known through its many faces, though not all faces are equal in their value to Truth. But attractiveness? Attractiveness seems to be side-by-side with what Truth is.
The benefits are plenty: Ability to convince a person to do another’s work; Gather mates for raising offspring or protection; Decrease the likelihood to be neglected or killed (a reason baby animals are “cute”); et al.
This principle extends beyond biological evolution too. Non-organic nature seeks to persist in its states forever and ever, from thermodynamics to motion. What persists the longest are those things with strong bonds and mass; i.e., matter in the universe that is “attractive” survives.
Therefore, being attractive is a necessity of the universe, as plasma, rock, or mammal. Further, there are tiers of attractiveness, differentials of both magnitude of attractiveness and type.
Just discussed has been material attractiveness of the gravitational type, with examples of planets being in their own tier, suns another, and galaxies encompassing them all. The same applies to biological life.
If doing what is unattractive generates suffering and ends its existence faster, the contrast that does not create suffering and survives must be called Good. Being attractive is Good.
Bringing it back, attractiveness reinforces itself as being adjacent to Truth: Attractiveness is a universal quality across matter and time, nature tends toward attractiveness, and the pursuit and state of attractiveness reduces suffering.
First Impressions – “If their initial impressions of the candidates are positive, employers show a higher tendency to ‘sell’ the job by providing information to the candidates about the job rather than gathering information from them.”
All life seems to agree on this: Suffering is the only guaranteed experience.
Before you go, hear me out. Suffering is a cornerstone of existence if not the foundation of what it means to be alive.
It all starts at where all things do: at the beginning. First there is the suffering caused to mothers during pregnancy and labor. Second, babes wail at the shockingly cold, shockingly bright loss of everything they have ever known. Communities then suffer the child’s cries and inadequacies while their parents sweat and toil to keep the new human alive – and often that is beyond their abilities!
The baby born, that child will become self conscious. With that knowledge, the young person begins to doubt their own value. Their body morphs through puberty in unknowable, painful ways. Their minds become aware of themselves and other people, namely the failures of themselves and their society. A child is considered ‘mature’ when they lose the shield that was naiveté. In a complete upending of the child’s reality, they come to understand they are betrayed by family, friends, society, and their own body.
That babe-turned-adult suffers once again as the incessant march of time grinds down thought and bones alike. If not outright crippled in mind and body, the ‘edge’ of peak performance experienced in late adolescence is dulled. A second revelation comes where the elder recognizes how much of their short life has been spent with little return. Existential nihilism or a living lie of denial sets in, killing the elder long before they are dead and buried. This is the elder’s only inheritance left to their next of kin, who in turn do not understand the trauma they’ve received. Thus the cycle of suffering, from birth to death, continues on into the next generation.
Suffering is inherent in creation. Yet does it last?
We see in the life of a person or a galaxy, suffering is the ever-constant companion throughout a singular existence. From start to finish, suffering is present and repeats its pattern infinitely.
Suffering persists. But what of the Good?
While there are absolutely may be moments of pleasure in one’s life, no two persons can agree on the specifics of such pleasures, or if the pleasure itself is a Good thing! (What is Good has been mentioned before, but a further exploration is later in this post.)
What used to be the common ground of Good was religion. But which religion? Which denomination of that religion? Can a history of stoning neighbors, burning knowledge, and the excruciation of the masses, justified in the many names of God, be considered Good? (Rhetorical questions all.)
When consuming certain mushrooms across the world, shamans and laypersons alike gain the satisfaction of meeting their own God without the need of religion. Perhaps this is a contributor as to why claims to be religious are becoming a minority. Regardless, religion seems to be unable to define a Good in the universe.
Hedonism gives many moments of pleasure. Eating, drinking, sex, and drugs all stimulate dopamine and other feel-good chemicals, these chemicals the only objective cause of pleasure in a person’s body. If pure pleasure is what Good is, the only Good activity in life is the pursuit of opiates until death arrives, the dead no longer suffering.
The idea of ‘the nation‘ aims to give meaning with shared common purpose, that which the nation claims to be Good. Further, nations promise to carry the ideas and works and wishes of the citizen into the future, a survival-by-proxy. So which nation is Good? When? For whom? What consistently has been considered Good? Perhaps during the disenfranchisement of its women? The crucifixion of its minorities? The genocide of its enemies? The enslavement of the destitute?
The nation has many ideas of what Good is. No idea remains consistent, thereby a changing definition of what is Good. In the book The Rape of Nanking, it is come to be understood that nations will justify its actions without remorse, even glee, passing this ‘goodness’ into its citizens and collective actions. It is clear ‘the nation,’ despite giving meaning and surviving, cannot be Good.
If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever.
In these ways, the Good is entirely subjective. What is Good for one cannot be guaranteed for another. The Confucian Golden Rule of “do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself” usurps its Western opposite of “do unto others what you would have them do to you.”
But Good may yet have something true about it. If suffering is the omnipresent woe, minimizing suffering may be a common agreed-upon Good. But remember that many things done with ‘Good’ intention (Western Golden Rule) cause suffering. Therefore, Goodness with the intent to reduce suffering seemingly is to act less on perceived suffering (the context others appear to be in) and more on actual suffering (the context a person finds themselves in, the only guarantee suffering is indeed occurring).
As Goodness with the minimal definition is an eternal endeavor since suffering persists, Good would need to accommodate failure and continue (i.e. survive). That still does not negate this narrow definition of Good as being subjective, only one in a crowd of other definitions that claim to be correct.
Simply put, a definition of Good may be “reduce net suffering to survive and survive to reduce net suffering.” This does not violate the subjectivity of Good, merely prescribes what the abstract concept is.
Good is subjective. So what is objective?
If any claim to objectivity is made, it seems to be made of suffering and surviving. A person cannot do a guaranteed Good. By the act of existing only, a person can participate in suffering.
You and I will experience suffering, will cause it. Much of it will happen and we won’t be aware of it. In our darkest times, we will seek it out.
Therein lies an objective truth: Suffering is inevitable. With that knowledge, preparing to suffer can be committed to and actions readied to reduce it. How suffering is perceived is variable, but thoughts about suffering tend to trend in two ways: Those that have the means to hypothetically bear great suffering are better; those that endure actual suffering not of their choosing are considered lesser.
Whether suffering is accepted or railed against, if a person finds that they are suffering, it may be a comfort to know suffering is natural and it too can pass. How to address suffering is another topic entirely, an important one to have when suffering is known to exist, persist, and permeate throughout the universe.
In these ways suffering conforms to a universal truth, a first-tier fact that better reveals Truth and hones other truths in their meaning and purpose.
Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.
April has been a doozy – certain finance projects have kicked off (lacking from last month’s proposal) and certain personal affairs have required my strictest attention. Needless to say, my time has been ravished.
April Goal Review
Won! I am now set for certain housing needs while on long trips. Meeting individuals and couples who will also be vaccinated are set. And in the face of new information, I’ll be “on my toes” for
Failed. I donated loads of clothes and dishes and such, but really dropped the ball in pushing the commercial aspect of property dispersal. Hate to say it: I suck at spontaneous entrepreneurship 💀
1 Hour Writing Habit
Failed. Over 60% of this target was hit, but that’s still a lot of failure, so I did not remain consistent like I’d hoped. Wrote a lot of blogs at least, this included 🙃
1 Hour Chill-out Habit
Won! Playing games and watching shows – I found that this is a highly useful scheduling item. A ‘chill’ hour (which at times seemed a tad long) gives me something to look forward to at the end of the day, resetting me for writing! Will include ‘chill hour’ into the future 🎮
May Goal Proposal
There are dates to make and keep, both personal and social. I’ll be hanging out in temporary housing before my summer drive so I can celebrate the birthday of a very good friend. In addition, there’s some health stuff to knock off the TO-DO list, especially in time for me running around in the summer sun ~
OK, time to be vague: There are certain things that I very likely won’t be able to do later this year or, heck, for the rest of my life. This goal is to leave open to myself time for those experiences. (Don’t worry, I’m cool – just a new paradigm to look forward to.)
Half-Hour Happy Habit
Coming off of the “Hour Chill-out Habit” from April, I’ll force myself to spend at least half-an-hour a day doing games, shows, walks, and reading for nothing but the sake of the activity. I needed little prompt most times during April, but sometimes had to yell at myself to “play the dang game” 😅
8 AM Half-Hour Writing Habit
Trying again, round two. Maybe if I can specify a time to start the habit, it’ll blossom into better consistency. I’ll be forced to keep the rest of my later afternoon and early evening on schedule. Small steps! (Hoping for big gains!)
The best news is that by the time you read this, I’ll have received shot #2!
Come mid-May, I’ll be fully vaccinated, having played my part since March 2020 and will continue until the United States has gotten something of an act together.
When are you getting your vax? What are your plans for rejoining society at large? Have a special place for your favorite mask?? Do tell! Hope to see you outside in a few more weeks 😁 Cheers!
Truth is something we cannot know. However, Truth is a legion of many faces, each aspect of Truth being a testament to the universe. Through these aspects Truth may be known. Yet, the knowledge itself is a terrible thing.
Quite so. Once something is known, it cannot be unknown. The knowledge itself gains a consciousness in its perception. The knower gives the information their own life by spending time and calories thinking on the knowledge.
A terrible part of knowledge is when it allows the knower to become self-conscious. A belief held in ignorance contradictory to newfound information provides a stark contrast to what may have been a life in the ‘wrong’ or ‘false.’ Not many are ready to recognize their failings in this way, that their reality was a lie up to the knowledge gain. Thereby it is born a perfect situation to allow a knowledgeable person to suffer not only the pain of finding in themselves a false-self, but doubly the suffering of perpetuating the now insincere lie of their false belief.
Language, sparking fire, paper, printing, the raising of crops and livestock, penicillin, engines, mathematics, rocketry, clothing, environment control, the internet, vaccines, subatomic physics.
All-in-all, knowledge has proven terrible in its power for the Good reduction of suffering, and the contrary application of incredible suffering for meager gain. “Terribleness” cannot be said to be in-and-of itself a ‘bad’ thing. By any objective measure – poverty, life expectancy, opportunity, access to resource – knowledge has on the balance been a Good thing, making now the best time to be alive ever.
If the concept of knowledge were visual, knowing would be feeling around into the darkness of the world’s unknown. Some finds would be sweet and soft, treasures to make the journey worth the while; others sharp and deadly, tragedies there in the dark. Sometimes a truly terrible tool is found, a thing with the capacity for great reductions and increases in suffering, depending on its use.
Taking the ‘darkness’ example further, sharing knowledge might be visualized as a light cast on a place – a piece of knowledge. However, that light comes from one direction – the sharer of the knowledge. What may appear true and whole on one side may seem completely false on the other – a shadow cast. Therefore, partial light may play tricks and deceive for a time. Until further insights and investigations cast more light on the subject, knowledge and its sharing suffers from the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant.
Light too, when shown to unprepared eyes, can be blinding. In this way, the illumination and knowledge can send a person reeling from the moment’s bright suffering.
So the distribution of knowledge may cause suffering, at least for a time. To pursue knowledge is one choice; to reveal information is another. Sometimes it’s best to not reveal true knowledge, as in the case of white lies, especially to the unexpecting. Sometimes knowledge will be shared with the express intent to cause suffering, e.g. black truths.
A truth that’s told with bad intent Beats all the lies you can invent.
So pay respect to knowledge and its lack alike. Context plays a part in guessing whether knowledge gives or takes suffering away, but across time and culture, this remains true: Knowledge is a terrible tool to have and to wield.
Truth is an enigma, but there are scatterings of Truth in universal truisms. These truisms are plentiful, none are equal. The further from Truth they go, the more truisms there are, but the less true they are in turn. There, they become a ‘noise’ while fewer and truer the truths become. In that way, the closer to Truth one goes, the simpler the space is as are the truisms found.
It is a challenge to think of what, when added, makes things simpler. The act of taking away brings things into focus. Take myself:
I trimmed my professional "expertise" from game design, production, illustration, programming, and mathematics into tools engineering, serving me with above-par pay and sharp skills.
From aiming to please any-and-everyone, relationships of all sorts have become straightforward - my experience knows "why what works with who," making any decision involving others near immediate versus requiring deliberation over months and years.
My time, previously split between an immense variety of activities and active interests, boils down to creation (writing, game design, sketching), being of use to others (tools engineering, exploring problems) and myself (working out, learning), and achieving a sense of order (planning, chore completion).
Yet, simplicity’s opposite – complexity – pervades. This, too, appears to be natural. Planets gather moons to add the complexity of tides. The simplest atom hydrogen is incredible unstable, binding itself with other atoms to form more complex molecules. Organisms evolve to add necessary features, even if that’s combining symbiotically with other creatures.
Humans too generate a ‘gravity’ to add things to their orbit of concern. Another task makes it onto the ‘to-do’ list. Another acquaintance boosts the follower count. Another car needs payment. Another interest of the moment divides attention. Another another another.
Though how often has “another” brought suffering to life? The pain of indecision contrasts with the toil for more, a common masochism a sleepless person who takes on another responsibility shares with the pet that gorges itself into ache and vomiting.
We cannot help adding complexity to our lives. But as another card is added to the house or another plate is brought to spin, our lives become more perilous.
Our wants are simple: Comfortable environment, quality sleep, satiation in emotion and nourishment, a feeling of worth, and energy to pursue the things we intend and find interesting and survive without cars from what we don’t. Our ways and whys are many more than these.
This complexity resembles what it is: a construction. How well it is built is directly linked to the foundation of planning and intention that goes into our lives.
Is this object or situation or action as simple as it can be? Does it serve a necessary outcome here and now? How can it do the easiest thing possible?
A medicine is highly complex but any more or less than necessary ruins its purpose. A wall with its many parts crumbles with any more or less than the required stones. A body – a miracle of moving parts – with any more or less than a very small range of temperature, water, or calories destroys itself.
It’s simple: The farther from the simple a thing strays, the more the thing destroys what it is. Such change is a guarantee. Whether the consequence of the change is intended is up to how simple the origin remains.
Managing change is incredibly useful. For a person, if a situation is unacceptable, that person can add to their life in some ways, subtract in others. Once a person finds a place where they are contented, no more gets added, no more gets removed. They have simplified to a level of stable complexity so they may begin to survive. And to survive, to live, that is a Good thing to do.
In that way, to simplify conforms to a universal truth, reduces suffering, better reveals Truth in its many effects, and is one of the few truths that best represents the Truth.
Occam’s Razor– No more, no less. That which is less indivisible is preferred.
Hey there! Before going on, know that I’m hardly a professional. Knowing what a professional’s value is, however, is invaluable.
This post is for you that need to double-check if you are being valued; for you looking for work so you know what’s acceptable to ask for and what an employer ought to be offering. For simplicity, I’ll be using my own profession of software development as the example to be used.
Note: Having a pen-and-paper handy along with a calculator to figure out the value of your own work while you read may save your time.
From 2019 to 2021 (now), inflation has been 2.88%. (This will be important as we’ll be getting some salaries from 2019.)
Because some of the following numbers will be multiplied by hundredths-of-a-percent, there is going to be some inevitable rounding. If the values are off by a few dollars, no sweat – you should be rounding up anyway 😉
With a trusty map of 2019 pay for techies, we can take the national value and inflate it, leaving us an estimated $110,606.29 per year median.
The hypothetical $111K is contradicted by Salary.com’s reported $115,430 per year average. Since this is private company is only a statistically insignificant ~4% different, we’ll ignore Salary.com for now in favor of the official numbers (inflation and BLS).
A few example metros / locales follow. I received two different CoL calculations in my recent research – Best Places in general had higher values while PayScale was more conservative. Naturally, I went with the former ~
CoL vs National
Est. Min. Salary
Est. +10% Salary
New York City
CoL Applied to BLS Median Pay
You, sharp reader, will have noticed that the numbers estimated above do not match up quite with the BLS values previously. That is because BLS does not always include bonuses, stock options, the size of the company a person is employed at, or what has been the best few years for software companies ever.
More on that in the next section.
Remember: Always round up to at least the nearest thousand thereabouts. Exact numbers shown here to allow you to make your own decisions on how comfortable you are with rounding.
Also remember that odd numbers (123.45 vs 120) psychologically seem “more official” and “legitimate.” If you can round up while keeping some of this oddness when you go into negotiating your value, it’ll help you greatly!
Expected Salary Range
Not every company has or likes to have the cash on hand to pay huge base salaries. Though cold, hard cash is almost always preferred, you can leave it up to a company to make up the difference in your value.
Base salary is usually less than the CoL and BLS calculations above, yet this does not take away from your value. You can accept this lower pay by expecting the company to exchange cash bonuses, equity, PTO, or other subjective boons.
A cash bonus usually is a lump-sum payment delivered every six-months or a year. Usually about 10% of your base salary, you can negotiate this percentage higher to make up the total value difference. If the bonus is variable, say, based on performance, only calculate for the “you did no more and no less than your job” value.
Equity is some investment in the company. My personal rule aside is to only accept equity at a 2:3 rate, where for every $2 of base pay being forgone, $3 comes in equity. Why? Equity is variable with the market and often delayed in being granted to you. There is no timely guarantee for your work to be properly compensated, so as equity literally costs the company nothing to give you, asking for more is always a safe bet.
PTO (paid time off) is a common benefit working at most companies. PTO comes as paid vacation, sick time (if separate from vacation), and holidays. Each PTO day is 8 hours but the value of the whole day is your daily salary rate, i.e. base salary divided by 250 days. Daily rate multiplied by the number of days is PTO’s value.
Finally, there are other boons that the company can give. Maybe it’s better healthcare, a shorter commute, a better title, work-life separation, etc. Tangible (physical, material) or intangible (time, feeling), only you know what’s more important than cash-in-the-bank. Always keep in mind that any boon you accept in replacement of direct pay is doing the other party a favor.
Glassdoor Et Al
Every company changes in what they may offer potential new-hires. Glassdoor, Levels.fyi, and other websites have oodles of employee-reported data on pay, among other things.
If you are looking at a company that has a presence on one of these sites, use the site. Compare the ranges of base salary and other payment options to your BLS and CoL numbers. This gives you not only an idea of what other compensation to negotiate for with the company, but also a second set of values that may be higher than BLS + CoL (needless to say, increase any site-found value by at least 10% since site values do not account for CoL increases or inflation).
Tip: I always salary search using a Google Chrome Incognito window to do my browsing. Sites like Glassdoor track your usage, preventing further use if you navigate to a different page. Incognito gets around this:
Arrive at a blocked page.
Copy the website URL.
Close all of the Incognito tabs / windows.
Open a new Incognito window.
Paste the copied URL.
Tada! Continue researching your value.
Putting It All Together
You now know what you should be compensated based off of your research into the company, role, BLS, and CoL.
When the talk of money comes up, here is the handy equation to keep on hand:
Total Compensation = Base + Bonus + Equity + PTO
If you have other boons you are looking for, convey to the other party that you are taking these for granted, increasing your base or bonus or equity if the other party wants to take these boons away. Never Split the Difference is an astounding book (read it at least four-to-six times so far) that goes into more depth in how to handle leveraging boons that may not have an impressive dollar value.
Now, that total compensation ought to be a range, something like the fair value you found through research of median or average pay (whichever is higher), and at least 10% more than that. Propose the larger numbers and have the other party justify why they ought to be offering you less, giving a sense of disbelief the entire time (much more in Never Split the Difference).
Baring the most dire circumstances of survival, never, ever accept below the median or average pay for the role in the place you are bidding for. It is anti-social and masochistic and despicably weak. Don’t do it.
On the plus-side, if the other party counters above your expected compensation range, smile! Then let them know that’s a good base-pay starting point. “Now let’s talk about bonuses and equity.” Using the simple trick of adding 10% more to acceptable figures, you enable yourself maximize your worth to the other party and to yourself.
Having gotten through this article, how are you doing? Are you making out like Robin Hood, maximizing your value above par? Are you being taken for granted, paid pennies on the dollar?
If you need to be valued more, talk with those that pay you about increasing your compensation 10% if you are being underpaid by 10% or less. However, should the compensation be undervalued by more than 10%, you can still have a conversation with the payor, but it is also time to look at other companies since you have been clearly disrespected and taken for a ride 😐
Enough talk! Check your numbers, go get your value, and be confident that you are in the right (heck, you at least have the United States government backing you up). All the best to your endeavors going forward – cheers!
But why dwell here? There’s the future to consider after double-checking where the most recent accomplishments laid the way here!
March Goal Review
Truths Chosen Formatting
Won! Kinda. Taking a note from folks like Scott Galloway and my own truth of “Simplify,” I’m going to write blog posts on a shortlist of truths. These will be longer-form, combining TLDRs with a chapter-like story delving into the reality of what seems true.
Truths Draft 3
Failed. I’m not giving myself this one. I’ve focused on the end-of-life deathwalk, work, and yearly medical checkups. I’ve done no major changes to the “Truths” list other than paring down to a shortlist of Top 4, Top 10, and Last 10 from a list of about 30 truths I can defend without doubt.
Won! This deathwalk (my term for it) has been brutal but oh so valuable! (Highly recommend it for you!) Found that some documents needed updating, recalibrated my endeavors, and have started already on April. (Goals below.)
Another 20 Into Witcher 3
Won! Bam! And no-where near to being done, so it seems 😅 Very much enjoying it so far. Wonder what it would be like on the highest difficulty? 🤔
April Goal Proposal
May and June will see some location changes. My thoughts are to get a new permanent residence while also getting up to New York State to see fam and a very important cat (COVID precautious, of course). Since I’ll be uprooting, I can head off any downsides now rather than later.
Physical assets hold a person back, hold them down. I’ve lasted a year-and-change without things like my heavy wooden kitchen table, guest beds, and 90% of my wardrobe. Though I may not get down to 10% of my current ownings, 40% is doable! (If I can move my current storage into a 5×10, this is a win.)
1 Hour Writing Habit
Everyday, 1 hour, writing. Doesn’t matter what, but it needs to be writing and only writing. 1 hour. Everyday. 1 month.
1 Hour Chill-out Habit
Like the above, I need to learn to relax. Part of the deathwalk was identifying what I wanted to do in my short life. Under that new awareness, I uncovered that I would re-consume some of the media that has changed me through the years. This hopeful habit gets me on the ball for that enjoyment.
April could bring a lot more change than what I mentioned here – heck, since I’m writing this a bit before month’s end, A LOT could still happen!
Enough about me. How are your goals doing? Do your actions live up to your intentions? If you need answers, check my other goal posts and, perhaps, fast for a day (doctor’s note excused) and do your own deathwalk ~
One of the most highly regarded histories of all time, Guns, Germs, and Steel caught my attention in a big way. How it sets up the dominos of time to bring us to the current era is as clear-cut as the Transitive Property.
The book further levels the genealogical and cultural propagandas so frequent in other lessons about civilizations. Any member of Homo Sapiens is capable of the same outcomes given the same environmental contexts – DNA does not play a factor (as it rightly should not).
Consequences of cultural differences also play out. In a personal eureka moment, I want to share with you the four cultural trends that persevere, usurping any methods that do not conform to one of the four. (Also note that culture drives what a society deems is valuable, thus drives the actions and thoughts of individuals.)
This overview is naïve, of course. Guns, Germs, and Steel does not contend with the question of a 21st-century global culture, the first of its kind. To show these categories of cultural action persist to this day, I’ll outline geo-political, commercial, and biological examples of how society has come to evolve the way it is.
A reminder, in paraphrase, from scholar William Durant: “Good” in history is that which survives. Be it biological, commercial, or cultural, Nature only cares about persisting to the next iteration. All else is a thought exercise at best, moral grandstanding at its most dangerous.
A castle is overcome when it is destroyed and its inhabitants ruined, the besieger then allowed to record only that there was victory for themselves.
First among equals, the primal tenant: an obstacle does not exist if made to not exist.
A culture or action that removes its competitors and predators survives, at least for awhile, and certainly longer than either competitors or predators.
The micro-action of “unfriending” an inflammatory character from Social Media is annihilation. A company that forces the closure of a niche shop is annihilation. A nation that blows-up the economics and utilities of another nation is annihilation. A species that puts to extinction a foe over resources or predation is annihilation.
Annihilation is Zero Sum, meaning that there is no compromise between one entity attempting to annihilate another. Being Zero Sum, once a state of mutually assured destruction is reached by any two entities, those entities must change their cultural attitudes towards each other to survive.
Non-annihilation towards one does not negate actions of annihilation against another. (Why the Cold War was an indirect war.) However, the idea of non-annihilation can assimilate itself into the rest of a culture, ‘pacifying’ a people to use other means of survival.
A castle is overcome when it surrenders and joins the besieger, who then puts to work what is deemed useful at the time.
The most mutually beneficial tenant, an obstacle does not exist if it not only agrees to no longer be an obstacle, but joins in overcoming other obstacles.
Mitochondria evolving to give easy energy to a larger cell for protection and care is assimilation. When a new employee goes to a company function regardless of personal preference to socialize with the group is assimilation. Every business that buys other businesses, adapting the enterprise in a minor way to accommodate the other companies, is assimilation. Whether Catholic or Buddhist, missionaries morphing the likenesses of their idols to conform to the dominant traditions is assimilation. A nation teaching its language to the conquered, the refugee, the destitute, and the uneducated young is assimilation.
In short, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In that way, a disadvantaged entity survives in at least some part while an advantaged entity grows stronger by the double whammy of removing a rival and adding to its own benefits.
Take note that a disadvantaged entity has no guarantee to be whole and only minorly altered after assimilation. In Nature, niches allow only one entity space to exist therein, otherwise resulting in competition and obstacles. If an obstacle is removed by assimilation, a subpart of what was assimilated may already have its niched filled by the assimilator, meaning the subpart is then annihilated to avoid competition.
If assimilation is yet too costly, a more indirect route of asphyxiation exists.
A castle is overcome when it is starved out, the besieger then destroyer or enslaver of any reluctant survivors.
A tenant for the patient or the weak-but-numerous, an obstacle allowed to crumble under its own weight is no longer an obstacle.
A culture that takes no direct action against another entity can still overcome the other. The former does so by cutting off the inputs needed by the latter.
Whether called “asphyxiation,” “denial,” “terminal isolation,” or otherwise, an enclosed system naturally succumbs to its own entropy.
A plant denied adequate water and light, whether given too much or too little, rots and withers. A person not included in a social circle is asphyxiated of attention and leaves. A powerplant cut off from its water coolant overheats by its own reaction. A nation runs out of its fuel and food when an embargo asphyxiates it.
Isolation, which may arrive in the form of inundation (e.g. drowning, the isolation from oxygen), kills – a roundabout annihilation. A system – cultural, commercial, biological, societal – must interact with other systems to survive. It will find its niche otherwise too small to continue without at least severe adaptation and sacrifice.
Some entities have assimilated so many others as to become self sufficient and spared a destruction by asphyxiation. However, should the denial of exchange be parsed farther down (e.g. to a city rather than a country), an entity will collapse under its own wants and waste. To prevent a possible asphyxiator from realizing this, along with avoiding notions of assimilation and annihilation, the disadvantaged entity may agnosticize itself to external awareness.
A castle is overcome when the inhabitants do not know the besieger is already in the walls, the besieger falling below a level of notice.
The tenant of ignorance and parasitism, an obstacle is no longer so whenever it does not know to act as an obstacle.
A culture beyond the notice of other cultures survives. This is the hardest tenant to exist by, though it is the least destructive to other entities.
Great work must be done to become agnosticized (i.e. unknown) to other cultures. First, the culture, system, or entity wishing to be kept unaware must be self sufficient (immune to needing to interact with outside systems to gather resources or deposit waste). It then must be self regulating (the niche of the system avoids over-consuming what is available). Finally, the system must have complete attraction to its members (nothing must be allowed to leave, and all individuals must cooperate towards maintaining the agnosticized goal).
The first need of an agnosticized culture – self sufficiency – may be circumvented in the case of parasitism. An entity may subsist on the byproducts and rounding-errors of a more advantaged entity. Even greater care is required here to remain under the notice of a destroyer. As far as humans are concerned, we are very jealous creatures, even in the ownership of our refuse.
A mouse whisking away a nibble of cheese or crumb of bread without traps set or cats stalking is agnosticized. A person is spared ridicule by being a no-body without public appearance and so is agnosticized. A local provider is not run out of business by a larger corporation because it is agnosticized from the corporation’s notice. A non-seafaring people left alone on an island is spared disease and enslavement because it is agnosticized. A nation in isolation can slow cultural change because it is agnosticized.
Attention begets change from outside forces, whether on the subatomic level or cultural. To avoid attention, to agnosticize, means survival. Change will certainly come, yet remain internal, free from being targeted for annihilation, assimilation, or asphyxiation by other cultures.
And those are my big “aha!” takeaways from Guns, Germs, and Steel. Looking around the context of things in 2021, we see how these principles continue to play out across geographies, cultures, time, and even between micro-organelles to macro-economies.
To survive is “Good.” How to survive is to annihilate, assimilate, asphyxiate, or be agnosticized against the competition.
For your goals, which of these survival techniques are you leveraging? Help me assimilate your ideas into my own so we both may survive a little longer!
Greetings! Taking a break from heavier topics to write something light: A game!
Not just any game, but a roleplaying game set in Activision Blizzard’s Starcraft universe driven by my very own BITS engine. (Of course to note: I own no stake in the Starcraft IP owned solely by Activision Blizzard, nor to I may any claim on the IP. The following is personally for education and publicly for entertainment purposes only.)
This came to me over the course of two afternoon hours, cleaned up and expanded here for you! As a modest, very prototype design of a famous IP, it ought to serve to highlight how to bring a real-time computer strategy game to the role-playing world.
Tough talk, Jimmy, but I don’t think you have what it takes to be a killer.
Kerrigan, Queen of Blades
Who the Characters Are
Awaken, my child, and embrace the glory that is your birthright. Know that I am the Overmind, the eternal will of the Swarm, and that you have been created to serve me.
Players take on the roles of the units available to a faction in Starcraft: the haughty Protoss, the ravenous Zerg, or the troubled Terrans.
Any character is a standard unit in the game that then may play alongside GM-controlled hero characters. “Standard” means the player starts in an early tier unit, someone not the weakest (unless compensated accordingly), but certainly leaving room for growth.
Starting units come in tiers. Within the tier roles, each character comes with or chooses their own gear and specialties. Not all factions start in the same tiers. A shortlist of examples:
Terrans – Either a regular human or a robot.
Tier 0 – Space Construction Vehicle (SCV) operator, equipped with an exo-suit that is really bad at combat, but can breakdown structures, repair machines, and build anything anywhere given enough time and materiel.
Tier 1 – Marine, armed with powerful rifle and powered armor, though is unable to pilot vehicles.
Zerg – A spawned monster of leathery wings or chitinous hide.
Tier 0 – Zergling, a nasty creature of teeth and claws that travels with other Zerglings due to their minor stature.
Tier 1 – A slithering Hydralisk, armed with massive scythes and spewed barbs, but is a slow target.
Protoss – Either a psychically attuned alien or their AI servants.
Tier 1 – Zealot, the frontline warrior armed with energy fields and two psychically-powered forearm blades.
Tier 2 – Dragoon assault walker pilot, trapped inside a metal shell bearing a massive photon cannon.
There are gives-and-takes for each selection: Slow but powerful, restricted in capability but excelling in what can be done, etc. Choosing both opens and closes options to get things done while on missions.
What Characters Do
I do this for Aiur.
Players take their characters on missions, either as one-offs or as part of a larger campaign with the consequences of previous actions influencing future contexts. Every mission has a single environment the characters operate in with a clear goal.
Different obstacles prevent accomplishing the mission goal. They range from sneaky sabotage to ruthless assault to cautious evacuation to stalwart defense against armies. How these things get accomplished is up to the players and what their characters are capable of doing.
A Terran Marine character wants to shoot a Zergling before the ‘ling can get close enough to attack. The Zergling is Tier 0 which equals a difficulty of 7+ to do anything against them. The Marine must roll 7 or above. To help the Marine, they may add their BITS value of Interaction 1 (this value applies to shooting actions) to the roll.
The Marine rolls a 4. Even with 1 added, the Marine fails their action. The Zergling is now close enough to attack the Marine with sharp claws. The Marine is Tier 1, so the ‘ling requires a roll of 9+. The Zergling has a Body BITS of 2 that they can add to their physical action. Rolling a 7, the ‘ling adds 2, barely getting the 9 needed to carve into the Marine’s armor.
How and Why to Improve Characters
You must construct additional pylons.
Characters ‘level-up’ when they try to do things and fail but survive. When a level-up happens, between missions, a player may choose any number of upgrades for their character that improve how the character operates. Players may also choose to re-equip their character into a new specialty.
Upgrades allow characters to succeed more often and survive at the cost of failing less, therefore slowing down how many upgrades are gained. Characters also receive rewards for accomplishing their missions. Better gear, more allies, stashes of materials, or other tactical or strategic advantage become available for use.
Any upgrade from the Starcraft video games can be used, though customization is encouraged. Example:
A Terran Marine doesn’t have the ability to lay mines in Starcraft, but in this roleplaying game, they may come to carry one on their back every mission.
A Zergling can use in-game upgrades to become faster (Metabolic Boost), jump higher (Raptor Strain), and attack multiple times at once (Adrenal Glands).
With better gear, players may expand from their starting roles into more advanced roles and tiers. A Terran moves from combat armor to driving a powerful Siege Tank or flying a nimble Wraith Fighter. A Protoss warrior studies to become a Corsair or a hyper-powerful Archon. Zerg evolve into bat-like, acid-spitting Mutalisks or vile, contagious Defilers. These and more are the outcomes for courageous players.
Four Example Missions
I hunger for battle…
Players choose characters and gear together. For ease of play, they all pick from the same faction. There are few decisions to be made in selecting a character at the beginning (name, gender, role, gear), so they begin the first mission right away.
Mission 1: Escape the Base
Nuclear launch detected.
The GM details the environment, what has happened up the the present moment, and what is happening. The GM does this at the start of every mission.
The characters must escape a base that is being attacked and overrun. There are multiple routes out of the base (aircraft, ground transports), but also non-player characters (NPCs) that could help as well as communications equipment that could call for help.
Tier 0 enemies are everywhere with a few Tier 1 challenges. Whichever route the players choose, a Tier 2 ‘boss’ must be overcome for the characters to escape. A Tier 4 ‘super’ enemy destroys the base behind the characters.
After the mission, the players take note of what they took from the base and any upgrades they have available.
Mission 2: Steal the Keys
I have returned.
The characters are stranded unless they get the encryption keys to a spaceship. The keys are kept in a well-guarded base that doesn’t know the characters are nearby.
There are multiple routes into and through the base, as well as different styles of play available: Sneak through the base to avoid Tier 0 and 1 patrols, direct assault at the front gate, cause a distraction outside the base, or disguise as part of the base’s inhabitants.
Whichever rout the players choose, they must escape the base with the keys.
After the mission, a player decides to change their character role based off of what happened in the mission.
Mission 3: To the Victor
Kerrigan, Queen of Blades
The characters must secure a spaceship for themselves. The spaceship is on a space station. The characters are already on the station when an enemy raiding party attacks.
Battles happen throughout the station. There are multiple ways to get to the spaceship: Fight anyone encountered, run through any firefights, or sneak through the conflict. Extra rewards are on the station but are also where the heaviest enemy presence is.
Whichever route the players choose, they must make it to a spaceship and fly away.
A player character died during the mission. That player then chooses a new character to join the surviving characters, coming up with a plausible reason why that character is joining.
Mission 4: Space Race
Carrier has arrived.
The characters must use their spaceship to defeat other spaceships to save evacuees from the invasion started in the first mission. NPCs are available to help with their own space fighters and ships, but need the direction of the characters.
Players may choose to fly fighters, operate spaceship cannons, coordinate friendly spaceships, board the enemy, or fight off boarders.
Whichever route the players choose, Tier 3 and 4 enemies are frequent. Before the mission succeeds, an enemy hero must be overcome as a final ‘boss.’
After the mission, players upgrade their characters. The NPCs who have joined as allies and rewards collected help the players decide what their next mission will be.
A partial list of units in their tiers per faction. BITS stats are given more or less in proportion to the tier of the unit.
Frigate, Siege Tank
Sample Unit Tiers
The tiers ought to be altered to better reflect the “technology trees”
We sense a soul in search of answers.
Actions have abstract ranges of effect. Some actions require a minimum distance, but all cap at a maximum distance. The types of distance include Melee (hand-to-hand), Close (line-of-sight shooting), Long (sniping), and Far (indirect). Other games present systems of abstract distances that can be adapted here.
The quantity of effect an action has is by default 1 for accomplishing the action. 1 additional quantity is added for each number rolled above the minimum challenge required for the action to succeed. Some equipment or actions have a higher default quantity (e.g. a Siege Tank would have more effect in shooting than a Marine’s rifle). Some actions are lower (e.g. a human fighting with only their un-augmented body is 0).
To iron-out absurdities such as a Marine (Tier 1) shooting down a Battlecruiser (Tier 4), a unit may only interact with one and only one tier above that unit or below. Two or more tiers above a unit’s tier cannot be interacted with in a harmful manner by that unit. If an action affects a tier above, the action is at disadvantage (i.e. the highest die in a roll changes to be the lowest die). If an action affects a tier below, the action is at advantage (i.e. the lowest die in a roll changes to be the highest die).
There are more high-tier Protoss units than Terran, but Protoss are fewer in number. There are more Zerg units than Terran, but Zerg are lower tier.
Terran (2 units)
Zerg (4 units)
Protoss (1 unit)
Frequency of Tiers and Units (the math isn’t balanced [yet])
The merging is complete.
And there it is! My brainstorm that leveraged inspiration when inspiration hit.
I hope you like it! This would be a prototype if played. With the BITS ruleset and the prebuilt Starcraft universe, a game could be played, and that’s what really matters!
What have you been playing? Care to give this a shot? The ruleset here will get you well on your way to enjoying your own space adventure! Cheers!
Having taken my first in 2018, it changed my life. Here’s how I do mine so maybe something similar will change your life too.
A deathwalk shouldn’t take more than a weekend, maybe even a day. I’ve already done mine in March and the majority of my revelations came in a night and a morning – everything else was exploring the best ways to fulfill those things!
My first deathwalk was with a great friend who talked me through imagining my own intimate ceasing, but it required a lot of exposure of thoughts and admittance of stark failures and regrets. Not everyone has such friends or should put such friends through that. For me nowadays, a journal is an excellent place to dump thoughts out, draw maps of meaning, and record lists of what could make the last days of a life worth living.
The privacy in a journal is nice, too, since deathwalks can be very emotional times 😭 But please, don’t get lost on the walk – it can seem overwhelming (death, time spent so far), so keep in mind that without obligations, so much can be reclaimed! You are the ultimate decider of change for your life, so nothing has the power to overwhelm without your say-so. (And it isn’t really real – you’ll live for a long-time yet!)
The aim of a deathwalk is to explore oneself to figure out what and who is important with limited time left. It requires a fair amount of convincing yourself that you really are to die (I mean, you’ve gotten at least this far).
Some imaginative steps that help me are to think of coming home from a doctor giving the Nth-opinion that yes, your illness, though without symptoms, is incurable and will claim you in a short time.
I avoid thinking of world-ending events (e.g. asteroid) because that would affect how others act too. Here, I think of a permanence in the world, that those I care for will continue on for at least a while after my death.
One day left alive is too short – why not just do all the vices available and give over to hedonism? A year is too long (read any statistic showing how New Years resolutions repeat), let alone the unimaginable length that is a lifetime.
Three months, a season, seems the most doable option. There’s enough time to travel, visit people and place but not everyone everywhere, prepare affairs, and settle in for what would be, well, the end.
While airing out the bucket-list, this is a time to keep three things in mind:
There are only three months to do things in.
You won’t be 100% efficient with your time (and who wants to rush when they’re dying?).
You have the assets and means you do (i.e. money in the bank) – this likely means no visiting the Moon in the timespan, and serves as a cap on expectations.
I put together top-10 lists for different aspects of my life this most recent deathwalk. However, knowing how long they would take, I had to cut to top-4. Further, with a little googled estimation, I could confirm how much each thing cost to make sure I was betting on realistic assumptions vs. shooting for the Moon.
One of the biggest things overlooked is the legal aspect of death. Long story short, when arrangements are missing, it’s a mess at best, traumatic and frustrating at average.
Get a list of all your assets together and where they are. Do the same for your liabilities. Write up your passwords and usernames for different services and social medias. Let a handful (literally five or fewer, but more than one) of your most trusted confidants know where they could find this information.
Go one step further at your earliest opportunity to legally draft, sign, and witness a Last Will and Testament through a lawyer. It’ll cost a few hundred dollars, but you are making sure 1) a legally professional format and wording is used, 2) a copy is kept at a legal office, and 3) the professional can help pen Living Wills and funeral arrangements!
Keep your info up to date! Take me: I made my Will three years ago. Reading through it again, everything is in order, except my passwords were old and my list of tangible assets (the list that says “X thing goes to Y person”) was never filled out!
Shame on me. Don’t let it be a shame on you to do this necessary chore. Be the person that reduces the suffering of others after your passing.
After getting the chores out of the way, a deathwalk addresses who should be included in the last months. The figures that first come to mind are usually the 90% of folks who would be the right people to at least see. Commit to seeing them now, or at least plan the steps necessary to go to them should the deathwalk come to pass in reality.
It might also come to mind people not seen or talked to in a while – these folks ought to be reached out to. If that’s a bit too much, such as if the last parting was antagonistic, write letters to them.
Whoever is thought of, write letters to them. Apologize. Get down how much they mean to living and have changed life. Then put the letters away without sending them, somewhere where they can be found and mailed should three months have been a generous estimate.
In this way, affairs with others are put in order.
What do you want to do?
Seems easy, right? Ask it again: What do you want to do with only what’s left to you?
Here is where some serious trimming comes in. What do you feel obliged to do (other than getting your paperwork in order)? Scratch those. What is a might be what you want to do? Nix those too. Sometimes a list of things not to do can be more valuable than picking between what to do.
What’s helped me is to look back on what has brought the most passion, the most feeling, the most blissful, forgetful joy. Those are better guarantees for enjoyment than many hypothetical experiences. (e.g. A trip to a new country is outweighed by re-watching that feel-good film from childhood.)
And of course, there’s what’s on your mind already. How would you spend your next Tuesday if there were no obligations for it? Keep those allures close.
Be prepared to cut the least important things for the most important things. Remember: There are only three months left and only so much funding.
After figuring out how to spend the next three months and a well-deserved breather, look ahead.
Keeping the findings of the three-month deathwalk in mind, what is to be made of the rest of life? Preferably, the themes of the deathwalk percolate forward for years.
Regardless, the exercise certainly will have shown things that are weak in life. Is the 9-to-5 worth the effort being put in? Statistics would say no-way.
Undoubtedly, some changes will be uncovered that ought to be made. Figure out how to make the transitions necessary to secure that preferable life. It may not come today or next month or possibly even this year, but walking the long-term to death will show a better way forward than what’s present.
It’s important to live a life worth living, and nothing puts living in perspective like the prospect of timely, tangible death. To prepare for that eventuality, deathwalks expose what needs to be put in order to make the most of our time for ourselves and others.
Deathwalks have served me greatly, changing the very foundation of how I live my life. Only being human, I forget at times and fall into ruts that were not dug for me, so periodic reacquisitions of perspective are a necessity. Like visiting a doctor, visiting ourselves is a huge part of wellness.
This entire post has been pretty high-level, and for that, apologies! The intimate nature of “going for a walk” demands it, but if you’d have more to add, or have done similar things in your life, please share! I super-enthusiastic to know how others go about finding themselves and putting necessary things first.
Thanks for getting through the content! Will aim for something more blissful next time. With that, cheers!