Monday, 28 April 2014

The Disease Model

flask made what I feel is a very good point in a comment on last week's post on what differences we call disorders and what differences we do not.  It's a point that leads me into a larger point that I was going to make when I got around to it, and so I am getting around to it.

In that post, I focused on the idea of accepting differences without feeling the need to label them as disorders.  While I acknowledged in passing that these differences can be very problematic and even traumatic to people who have them, I didn't talk about the role that the concept of a disorder has in allowing people to seek help.

Transgender people may experience their physical sex as a disorder.  Severely autistic people may sometimes not communicate their experiences, but if they are engaging in self-harming behaviours, it may seem fair to describe their condition as a disorder.

The reason that a label of an illness or a disorder may be useful is that it allows a person to seek treatment.  We could agree that "curing" autism is a bad suggestion but offering treatments for autism that help people fell better and cope better is a good thing.

I think that's a very good point made from within our current model.  Our current model is one where there is the normal state and there is disease.  A transgender person can seek treatment - a positive treatment that acknowledges their physical sex rather than their subconscious one as the problem - because the aren't normal and are therefore diseased or disordered.  A parent with a non-communicative autistic child can seek treatment because their child is not normal and is therefore diseased or disordered.

Not-normal is disease.  Diseases can be treated or cured.

My province has some pretty significant pieces of legislation that are aimed at making the province more accessible to people with disabilities.  It looks at disabilities a little differently.  Disabilities are not problems, the problem is barriers.  Barriers make places or services inaccessible to people with disabilities.  For example, a very narrow hall is a barrier that prevents access to a person with a large mobility device.

Not-normal is a disability.  Barriers may prevent access to people with disabilities.

Under this scheme, the talk changes from "Alph couldn't get to the meeting because he's in a wheelchair," to "Alph couldn't get to the meeting because there was no accessible entrance."

The reason mobility disabilities always find themselves in example like this is because they are easy to conceptualize.  With mental illness, and mental differences, we find it harder to think that way.

We have some good hints, though.  I could say, "Mab hated going to the bathroom because she was transgender" or I could say, "Mab hated going to the bathroom because the bathrooms were not accessible to trans girls."  A bathroom where you can be harassed, threatened or arrested because you have different organs than the other people in the bathroom think you are supposed to is an inaccessible one.

I could say, "Tii sits in the corner and rocks back and forth because Tii is autistic," or I could say, "Tii sits in the corner and rocks back and forth because... Tii's family is not accessible? our culture is not accessible?  the world is not accessible?"  It gets tough.  And, of course, we have to ask ourselves if sitting in the corner and rocking back and forth is even a problem.  Is it that Tii "can't get to the meeting" - Tii would like to be functioning at a higher level but is being prevented from doing so by barriers - or that Tii "hates using the bathroom" - the barrier is other people's reactions to what Tii is doing and Tii would be fine if people just stopped passing judgement.

And what we ignore is that a lot more situations are tough than we'd like.  That same legislation that aims to make Ontario more accessible for people with disabilities has ways of defining disabilities and how accommodations must be given.  Your employer is going to have to try to make reasonable accommodations for who-you-are only if who-you-are is a thing that can be recognized by a doctor or a psychologist.  If you can get a professional to say that you need a dark place to work then you might be able to get reassigned from your open concept cubicle to a broom closet, but if you are just one of the many people who has trouble concentrating in that open environment, you get jack.

This is what is really comes down to.  Rules that say your employer has to make reasonable accommodations if you can prove you need them.  Rules that say places you visit as a customer must make reasonable accommodations as well.  Rules that help to turn people from charity cases into workers.  But that is still the axis that we move along.  It isn't really normal vs. disease or normal vs. disability, it is worker vs. charity case.  Near the beginning of those post I said:
Severely autistic people may sometimes not communicate their experiences, but if they are engaging in self-harming behaviours, it may seem fair to describe their condition as a disorder.
But my not-really-hidden meaning was this: Severely autistic people may sometimes not communicate their experiences but if it seems like they won't be able to get a job, then we do describe their condition as a disorder.

Those without disabilities are workers; those with disabilities that can be accommodated are workers-but; those with disabilities that are too expensive to accommodate are charity cases.  But those who have issues that aren't called a disability; issues that might be called a disability if only they had received more research funding - if some celebrity's child was born with the same problem - are slackers, losers, and rejects.

There is a common perception that natural slackers, losers and rejects make up the bulk of humanity, and that if we gave them an in to become charity cases then society would collapse, so we have to force them to be workers on pain of death.  The reality is that almost no one wants to be a charity case, and that we could easily float those that really do in our current situation.

Disability-and-accessibility is an improvement on disease-and-cure in that people are treated better and suffer less.  But both are trying to define something against normality.  If I were making the next version of the DSM, actually believing in that notion of normality that we define disability and disease against would be the first mental illness in the book.
If you have negative feelings about the actions I am taking, that is part of what I am protesting against. I am protesting the values you use to determine how you feel about and interact with the world.
When I said I wanted to congratulate John Campbell I knew that people wouldn't understand the worker vs. charity case problem - I don't think I understood what I was talking about at the time.  He was a worker, and by our culture's estimation he wants to become a charity case without first justifying himself based on a diagnosed intractable disability.  That makes him a loser, slacker or reject.

What he really did was move orthogonally.  No longer a worker, but looking for another alternative.  He wasn't asking for charity when he said he wanted people to support him and then someone else.  He was talking about a different way that things could be.

But he didn't really move orthogonally, he didn't actually escape.  He had a breakdown and probably made his whole situation worse rather than better.  He is without access to medication that was allowing him to function at the level he was previously functioning at.  He stopped paying rent so may end up homeless.

For many years I thought I would end up homeless.  Sometimes I considered it as an option.  At one point I had a bag packed and a bus ticket to a city with a significantly more liveable climate.  I didn't have a note written because I didn't intend to leave one.  I feel like it could have gone either way.

There are those of us for whom the worker vs. charity case axis is itself a barrier, and for us there is no hope.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


What's going on in other people's heads is nothing like what is going on in yours.  That's easy to accept when we think about people with views antithetical to our own, or of genius physicists who can barely even speak the same language as we do.  But that statement is true of a huge quantity of people, many of whom you could interact with quite normally without ever thinking about the problem.  Quine explained this to baffled philosophers who have trouble understanding things that everyone understands: If my mind is a black box and your mind is a black box then it doesn't matter that neither of us has access to the content of the other, so long as we follow the same protocols.  I say, "Terrible weather we've been having," and you say, "Quite."  It really doesn't matter what's behind that.

To be clear, though, it only doesn't matter if all we are interested in doing is functioning in well defined setting with a particular goal in mind.  I don't have to know the barista's life story or inner thought processes to order my obscene symbol of wealth.  But presumably we should try to know our spouses well if we want to share our financial and parenting responsibilities in a way satisfactory to both of us.  When we can't do that it would be very helpful to know what each of us really wants out of a divorce so that we can acquire those things with a minimum of pointless spite.

To be able to interact with other people successfully you need to be able to engage in proper behaviours and that is all.  It's like learning the code to open a locked door.  You associate a particular situation with a particular response.

To understand someone is to make the same connections that they make.  Spouse A's extended family is having a get together on the day of Local Sports Team's playoff game.  Spouse B wants to watch the game instead of going to the get together.  Spouse A is angry because spouse B is valuing a game higher than family.  Spouse B explains that B used to attend the playoff games with B's now recently deceased father.  B's father had always maintained a "masculine" aloofness from Spouse B but spoke proudly of Spouse B to other adults at these games.  The games are the most meaningful point of connection between B and B's father, and missing that game so soon after B's father's death would be painful.  Now A understands that B is not valuing a game over family, but valuing an important family connection.

Now when Spouse A thinks of Spouse B watching the sports game, A thinks of Spouse B's father.  Spouse A's brain has rewired to be more functionally similar to Spouse B's.  Understanding is actually physically becoming more alike.

We are not actually black boxes.  We are made of the same kind of material as one another.  If we think similarly, there is reason to think there is a similar physical structure.  What is going on in other people's heads is quite a bit like what is going on in yours.
If you have been skimming this to get the “gist” of it, it is not going to work in my opinion. If you are reading this to summarize it for someone else, please fuck yourself instead if possible.
When I read about what John Campbell wrote in his final update, a lot of people focus in on two things.  First, he burned a lot of books.  Second, he isn't going to give people the things he said he would when they donated to his kickstarter.  If Campbell is a black box then we have sensible ways to interact with these ideas within our existing systems.  People who burn books are bad.  People who don't keep their promises are bad.

But Campbell didn't offer us a few bullet points and call it a day.  Having read what he wrote, how could I consider burning books without reading about Calvanism's influence on religion in the southern states?  How could I consider what it means to break his promises without reading Bartleby the Scrivener for myself?

I am a very good translator of other people for other people.  I can very often resolve disputes by explaining each position in a way that the other person can understand.  I don't think I've been nearly so successful at translating myself, which here is a phrase meaning for most of my life I have kept what I consider myself as secret as I could because I didn't think I could possibly be understood.  Maybe it is just conceit - as Campbell says, the idea that getting the gist won't work.

I feel like Campbell has translated how I feel in a remarkable way.  I've never burned a single book, never made a kickstarter, never supported myself with my own creations, never found out the hard way that even creating my own art is just as oppressive as any other job.  I didn't grow up in the south, didn't have a religious family, didn't have absurdly rich friends to compare myself to, and didn't feel like I needed to reveal intimate information about myself to sell myself to others.  On top of that, I wouldn't have done these things given the chance.  Not only did I not stop a car to pick up a dead rabbit, but I would not have.  But I've never before read something and walked away with such a profound feeling that it reflects me.  If I took a personality test and the tester gave me this as my result I would say they really nailed it.

I am more like John Campbell because I read what he wrote.  But I think I was already a good deal like him.  I think I didn't need a teacher or a translator or a marriage counsellor to understand what he was saying.

So the problem is that Campbell didn't actually translate anything.  If I am an eccentric with my jargon and my obscure thoughts then the laity are still completely in the dark.  Except that really it's me who is in the dark.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Negative Correlations

Suppose that both attractiveness and talent are helpful things to becoming an actor.  Also suppose that attractiveness and talent have nothing to do with one another - they are completely independent in the population.  Finally, suppose that both are normally distributed.

If there were 1000 people in the population, their acting talent and attractiveness might look like this:

So those who are successful actors would likely be in the upper right part of that graph - those who stand above in talent and/or attractiveness.

So if we looked at those people who were actors, what relationship would we find between talent and attractiveness?

Hence the common perception that some people are successful only because of their appearance - there is actually a negative correlation between attractiveness and acting skill in those people who we would care to measure these things in even if there is no correlation between the two generally speaking.

Actors are a convenient example, but the problem is much broader.  There is no identifiable group of people on Earth that are not members of that group by some combination of characteristics.  Any characteristics which independently make you more likely to be a member of a group are going to appear to be negatively correlated in that group.  What's more, it is those characteristics that are of most interest to us to study.  We might be interested in the freethrow percentage and height of NBA players, where we would find those two things negatively correlated, but we would not compare it in university professors.

Similarly, we would be interested in studying the knowledge of subject and ability to convey that subject in university professors and once again we'd find that those things are negatively correlated, but we wouldn't look into their freethrows at all.

By the very fact that you have an interest in studying a particular feature about a particular group, you make it likely that you are skewing your perspective - otherwise you probably wouldn't be interested in the first place.

Of course if you are really interested only in the group you are studying, then the conclusions are completely real and valid.  In famous actors, attractiveness and acting ability probably are negatively correlated.  Just don't go generalizing that to the population in general.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


Underlying my intolerable negative emotions is not really sadness.  Often depression is characterized as a kind of extreme form of sadness, but that doesn't mean that depressed people are sad or that their underlying problem is that things make them sad.

One of John Campbell's suggested titles for an essay about why you like the way things currently are is:
Hello drug dealer in prison, I bought this weed I’m smoking from you, and my friend over there just started selling weed legally. Try to make the best of your time in there okay.
Our drug policies are not okay.  If you catch me in a conversation about them, I will typically talk about how drug laws have been ineffective at curtailing the use of drugs and about how they have led to the rise of organized crime.  I will talk about how, as a matter of fact, drug laws work against their supposed intended purpose.  I will say that people who support our current drug laws are disingenuous or stupid.

And that's all true.  But how I really feel is that drug laws are an insanely cruel product of a system that just doesn't care about anyone who is branded an outsider.  And it doesn't even matter if they have been branded and outsider by an arbitrary rule of the system itself.  People who argue in favour of drug laws seem to argue that drugs are wrong because they are illegal and they are illegal because they are wrong.  An entitled jerk whose name I don't care to look up right now wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal or some other publication starting with W about how he did drugs when he was young but it wasn't really good for his character and so America should continue incarcerating young men by the thousands.  He didn't exactly put it that way, but that is a very charitable reading.

I would like to see all law makers who support criminal drug laws and who have used illegal drugs immediately incarcerated for the average sentence for possession of that drug so they could come out of prison and tell us how useful that exercise was.  But that is tempering my rage into a practical suggestion.

I would like to lead a revolt to overthrow the government and execute those who pass laws from which they hold themselves exempt.  But even that is really just giving a rational story to an emotional reaction.

Underlying my intolerable negative emotions is rage.  I want to smash and destroy.  I want to hurt, kill and reduce to ash.  I want to explode.  To know that I can't, and that in fact there would be no point in doing so, that is depression.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Entitled, Destructive Oaf for Mayor

I find Rob Ford to among the worst examples of humanity.  If he has not killed anyone, I would attribute that purely to good fortune - both in that reckless decisions he has made have not yet caused accidents and in that society has been lucky not to place him in a position where he can make serious decisions about people's lives.  He is an entitled brat, a person who does not believe himself capable of being wrong or doing wrong.

He may also be the best choice for mayor of Toronto.

On the day of Toronto's last municipal election I was on a street car.  A woman was riding with her son who must have been one-and-a-half-ish.  He said, "Home," and she explained that they weren't going home, they were going to vote.  She asked him who he would be voting for and he said, "Ball."

If a football or a baseball or some other ball were on the ballot for Toronto mayor last election, I would have definitely cheered for them ahead of Rob Ford, but I also would have preferred an inanimate object over Smitherman, his closest competitor.  The great thing about putting Rob Ford in power is that he is so obviously a buffoon that council is willing to sideline him and pretend he isn't there.  Sure, it's one more "no" on every vote, but with 44 councilors, I think a proposal worth passing can stand to require one extra person in favor to get through.

There is a danger to voting in Rob Ford, and that is that council might take that fresh mandate from the people as a sign that they have to stop curtailing his powers.  But that might lead to an even better long term solution.  Council never had the power to curtail the mayor, they only had the power to not grant the mayor additional powers beyond what the legislation grants already.  Another term of Rob Ford might be just what we need to permanently instead of temporarily remove those powers from the mayor's office.  That would be great.

Olivia Chow might make a good mayor, as might John Tory or David Soknacki.  But there are really two things that I want in a political leader: not overly respected or powerful; and not corrupt in a grand scale.  Rob Ford is too ridiculous to become overly powerful and is in bed with the wrong kind of criminal to by corrupt on the order of $10M+.

Now, if I only I could vote for no Prime Minister or no Premier.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Dysfunction, Difference and Diversity

As background, you may want to read The Americanization of Mental Illness but it is long.  I could summarize it by simply saying that we should think of mental illness as an underlying dysfunction that manifests through a culturally chosen mode.

On We The People, the US site for futilely petitioning a government that only cares about rich people who only care about money, there is a petition to brand Autism Speaks a hate group and revoke its non-profit status.  Autism Speaks is an odious group that takes donations and uses them to search for a "cure" for autism.  This strikes me as hugely stupid, as it is very hard to believe that autism is a curable condition, but it also wrong because, as the petition itself says, people with autism don't need to be made more normal any more than black people need to be made more white.

We are currently, and thankfully, at what seems to be an inflection point in our treatment of transgender people.  Sympathetic stories appear in mainstream newspapers about trans girls and boys who aren't being allowed - or who are just not being allowed - to use the bathroom that matches their gender at school.  I call this an inflection point because I feel like the rights of transgender people are gaining momentum, but they are still obviously in a very sorry state.  Transgender people are still medicalized by Gender Identity Disorder and still have to go through gatekeeper doctors, psychologists and legislators to be themselves.

What we are seeing with both of these examples is that we are gradually moving from the notion of dysfunction to the notion of difference.  People who find themselves to one side of the mean on the autism spectrum aren't malfunctioning, they are different than those who are at a more average point on that spectrum.  People who are transgender don't have anything wrong with them, they are different than people who are cisgender.

Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" was used as a rallying call for eugenicists who wanted to improve the species by making us smarter, stronger, and taller and by eliminating things like austim and transgender people.  Of course "fittest" was a bit of a weird, self-referential and tautological term as Darwin used it.  It meant "possessing those traits that made the most likely to survive" not "possessing those traits that any particular culture associates with fitness".  The trait that really makes a species survive is diversity.

We are better off for having autistic people in our society, and transgender people.  We are better off for having people with down syndrome, for having people who are blind, for having people who are deaf.  We are better off for having psychopaths and we are better off for having narcissists and Machiavellians.

We are not better off when we deny transgender people the ability to be who they are.  We are not better off when we treat adults with down syndrome like problems instead of people.  We are not better off when create conditions such that the preferred cultural mode of expression for narcissism is murder-suicide or when the preferred mode of expression for psychopathy is financial instrument innovation.
I put stick figure comics on the internet for about a decade, and now I won't. If I make stick figure comics, then I should….live?
I don't know how John Campbell is dysfunctional/different, but I feel a strong affinity for it.  I've always felt this way, that I needed to be given permission to live and that the permission could and would be revoked if I refused to play along.  I feel like I'm running around in the jungle just barely scraping by all the time.  Why is this?

And given this, how did I turn out like I did?  Why am I married?  How do I have children?  How do I have a job that pays me enough money to buy property in the city and pay for daycare in the city?  Why aren't I homeless?

I suspect the answer is that I am a coward.  While the comments on John Campbell's last kickstarter post are filled with people wishing him well and urging him to get help, what I don't see is people congratulating him.  He did it.  He stopped living in fear of what would happen if he was himself.

Or is the difference that I have a greater capacity to tolerate negative emotions?

Can't it be both?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Pictures for Sad Children

John Campbell was the creator of the web comic Pictures for Sad Children.  If you go to right now you will see a blank webpage.  If you go to John Campbell's tumblr you will have a similar experience.  You can still find his review of Horse Master here but other than that, his work has essentially disappeared from the web.

That is, except for the updates to his final kickstarter project, a second book of his comics entitles Sad Pictures for Children.  He made some earlier updates that created a minor internet furor, but this last one was extreme.

There is no one thing about this kickstarter update that stands on its own, the entire thing has to be read to absorb it, despite the length.  But probably the most noted thing about this is that he burned one copy of his book for each email he received about the book in 2014.  This is not a hoax, there is a video and it sure seems like he burned a bunch of books.  He promised to burn another for every additional email he received.

I may make several posts talking about what John Campbell said in this final update and how I feel about it.  The thing that grabbed me on my first read, though, was this:
If you would like a refund, please contact a fan of my work directly for your money. This is where the money would come from anyway. I am cutting out the middle man.
I'm here to say that if you backed this kickstarter and did not get your product and you feel you deserve a refund, I will give you a refund.  Apparently the most offended people are people who donated $75, so I am extending this offer to a single person who donated up to $75 to the project.  Please leave a comment here and send me an email at and we can work out how I can pay you.

I realize my blog has a tiny audience and that I am unlikely to reach anyone this way, but I am honestly extending the offer anyway.

Diablo 3 - Teleporting

Distance is not an easy thing to measure in Diablo 3.  Some very good work was done a long way back to show about how big the screen is in yards.  I couldn't find any research anywhere that explained how fast your character actually runs on the screen, but I'm pegging base run speed at around 24 yards per second based on an assumption that it is a nice round numbers and some estimation.

A recent hotfix let us know that we can teleport up to 50 yards in one go, which means 150 yards in one wormhole.  I am assuming Archon teleport goes the same distance.

So the more cooldown reduction you have, the more often you can launch yourself off at incredible speeds.  Also, the illusionist passive gives you 30% more movement for 3 seconds after teleporting.  More teleporting means more of your downtime is spend moving fast.

So I made another worksheet with the same assumptions as yesterday - a gem, paragon points, passive skill and set bonus all giving cooldown reduction - and compared total movement speed, counting both time in and time out of archon for varying numbers of items with 8% cooldown reduction.  This is what it looks like:

These percentages show the compounded run speed that you get on top of a wizard who does not have illusionist, has no cooldown reduction, but has both 25% run speed and wormhole.  The same numbers, but this time in terms of absolute run speed are:

So capping out your cooldown reduction means achieving some really ludicrous speeds.  Full stacking of cooldown reduction means having the equivalent of 283% run speed while in archon and, of course, being in archon quite a bit of the time.

Of course this is making the assumption that you want to relocate to a place 50 yards away every second, and that's probably not realistic.  Then again, a person who actually had +200% run speed would spend some of their time standing still.  Run speed only matters when you want to move.

Still, being able to teleport 50 yards each second is not the same thing as moving 50 yards a second faster.  Many maps have narrow and short corridors that will block you from utilizing the full range.  A closed door  20 yards away means you have to stop to open it rather than barrelling through.  On the other hand, teleport sometimes shortcuts stairs and other obstacles.  Also, unlike with run speed, time spent standing still can effectively be movement time.  A character who ran 50 yards a second would have to spend one second moving 50 yards.  A character who gets to relocate 50 yards each second can move 50 yards and do other things.  The comparison between moving and teleporting is not an easy one, but it certainly isn't obvious that teleporting gets the short end of the stick.

Out of interest I tried, however, giving teleport a 35 yard range to see how it affected the numbers.  At the same time I reduced wormhole to 2.5 teleports since the third one is sometimes a little dicey to use effectively.  This still gave some impressive speed numbers ranging from +74% run/walk for no 8% cooldown items and +130% for seven.  That puts the wizard at about the speed of a barbarian with always on Marathon Sprint without any extra cooldown items at all.

The reality is that I've played this build with two 8% cooldown reduction items and I move much faster than anyone else.  When doing bounty runs it took me less than 20 seconds to reach Skeleton King from the waypoint, and when searching the spider caves or halls of agony for the way down I would sometimes explore the wrong way then turn around and pass someone who had gone in the other direction, these someones being spirit walking witch doctors, dashing striking monks and even other non-archon teleporting wizards without massive cooldown reduction.

If 8% cooldown reduction gives this build both a 5% damage boost and a 5% run speed boost, then it seems like it is a stat that can actually compete in the big leagues.  I've been doing speed runs for bounties, and teleporting from pack to pack, devastating each with an arcane blast has certainly been a fun and satisfying way to play.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Diablo 3 - Cooldown Reduction

Cooldown reduction is an interesting new thing they added to loot in the run-up to the expansion.  Some classes can reduce cooldowns with passive skills, but now everyone can have access to reduced cooldowns.

Unfortunately, reducing cooldowns stacks in a complete rational fashion.  If you have 10% reduced cooldowns and 20% reduced cooldowns you end up with 28% reduced cooldowns rather than 30%.  That is, it takes 10% off leaving you with 90% then take 20% of the 90% off, leaving you with 72%.

This is probably good because otherwise cooldown reduction would probably break the game when people stacked it to 100%.  On the other hand, it means that cooldown reduction gets more and more modest as you stack more of it.

Well, kind of.  It feels like it becomes more and more modest because reducing from 20 seconds to 18 seconds feels better than reducing from 10 seconds to 9 seconds.  But in reality it depends a lot on what exactly the cooldown is doing for you.

For cooldowns that have durations, cooldown reduction becomes more powerful the more of it you have.  Suppose you have a cooldown that makes you do 50% more damage for 20 seconds with a 120 second cooldown.  That ability is on one sixth of the time so in the long run it increases your damage by 8.33%.  Slap a 10% cooldown reduction on and now you can use it every 108 seconds so it increases your damage by 9.25%.  The next 10% cooldown reduction lets you use the ability every 97.2 seconds, meaning it is on 20.5% of the time and increases your damage by 10.25%.

Going from 108.33% of your damage to 109.25% increased your damage by 0.84% while going from 109.25% to 110.25% of your damage increased your damage by 0.91%.

Similarly, if you have an ability that lets you stun enemies for 4 seconds on a 15 second cooldown, then enemies are stunned 26.67% of the time - or, put another way, they get to act 73.33% of the time.  Reduce the cooldown by 10% and they get to act only 70.33% of the time.  Reduce it again and they get to act only 67.07% of the time.  The first 10% reduction reduced their acting time by 4.05%, the second one by 4.78%.

Of course these numbers look like they kind of suck.  Improving from one bad number to another bad number doesn't make things look good.  But if they get better the more you have, then the question isn't really whether 19% is better than 10%.  It is whether 55% is better than 50%.

Let's say you have a flawless royal diamond in your hat, a 20% cooldown reduction skill, 50 paragon points in cooldown reduction and two pieces of the Captain Crimson set on.  That would have you serving only 56.7% of your cooldowns.  How good is another 8% - the maximum amount you can roll on a non-weapon unique or set item?

I did some math for an Archon wizard build.  Right now on my wizard I fight with disintegrate and explosive blast when not in archon form and try to melee and mash arcane blast when in archon form.  One of the things about this build is that it converts cooldown reduction to damage both in and out of archon form.  Since the blast abilities can be used while making other attacks, lower cooldown means more spamming.

Quite a few things go into this calculation.  Slower weapons mean that cooldown instant cast abilities are more powerful.  Choice of archon rune makes a big difference.  I also did the math with and without an empowered shrine since wearing the shrine gloves is probably a very good idea for this build.

First of all, here is the archon uptime that you enjoy with and without the pure power rune.  The x-axis shows how many 8% cooldown reduction items you are wearing.  It is fairly easy to see how each is better than the last at improving archon uptime.

This chart shows how much damage you do while attacking and mashing that arcane blast button.  Not only do you do more with a slower weapon, but you also accelerate faster with a slower weapon.

So what happens when you have the four piece bonus from Vyr's set to get all archon rune, you use a 0.9 speed two-hander, and you have an empowered shrine active?  It turns out that the best 8% cooldown reduction gives you nearly 10% more overall damage.  For more realistic situations 8% cooldown reduction grants more like 3.5-5.0% overall damage.  Unfortunately, that makes it worse than a maximum roll on pretty much any other stat an item could have.  So cooldown reduction only manages to outweigh other stats if it is doing more for you than adding to damage.

Tomorrow, cooldown reduction and teleporting.

Friday, 11 April 2014


I had an argument with someone the other day.  Not an internet message board argument but a real life upset people saying things to one another in an angry tone argument.  There was no particular resolution to the argument, it ended because we soon ended up in different locations and by the time we saw each other again neither of us was still upset about it.

But should I have still been upset?  Aside from the fact that the answer is obviously "no", it always stays with me when I go through a painful experience with nothing gained.  I felt like we never should have been angry in the first place, but given that we were should I be angry at that person for precipitating the anger?

Let's lay some blame.  First of all, the situation was a bad one to begin with, and bad situations often end up with people feeling bad or angry even though no one is really at fault.  But beyond that, I feel that I was the one who really set things off.  When I had an opportunity to de-escalate and find a helpful resolution I instead barked my opinion which led to a chain of harsh toned words.

Of course I wasn't the only one with a chance to ameliorate things, but all-in-all, I would put this one in the "we were both at fault" category with a nod to the possibility of "I was at fault."

When you examine a situation where you were hurt - not just where something bad happened, but when you personally had a painful emotional experience - you could judge 
  1. that it was someone else who did something to you
  2. that it was a circumstance that no one really had control of (which includes, in my mind, a situation where something could have been avoided but was caused by everyone acting reasonably with the information they had)
  3. that the blame is shared between you and another person
  4. that you were to blame.
I feel like a significant majority of people simply never entertain (4) as a possibility, that a majority wouldn't even go with (3) and that a sizeable part of the population never even think of (2).  I do a lot of mental work to be suspicious of my self-interest creeping into my judgements.  I feel like that's the best thing to do, but in a categorical imperative kind of way.  It would sure benefit everyone if everyone did it, but the reward to myself for being willing to be critical of myself sure feels like nothing almost all of the time.  The only thing that would be worse would be not doing it and then having to look back in regret at what a moron I was.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Random Ballot

We all know the best of all election systems: Random Ballot.  After counting up the votes, a random vote is selected and that candidate wins.  This is the ultimate proportional representation system, where even someone who gets only one one-millionth of the vote gets their due.

But one problem with the system is that random numbers can't be audited which would make people rightly suspicious of the results in the real world.  Today it occurred to me how easy this problem is to solve.  Not only do you have the electoral officer generate a random number to determine which ballot picks the winner, but you also have each candidate pick a number as well.  Candidates are be supplied with an open source random number generator and told the number of ballots cast, but they are under no obligation to use any particular method to generate their number.

Add all the numbers up and reduce it modulo the number of ballots to choose the winning ballot.

Under this system as long as at least one of the numbers is uniformly random, the process for picking the other numbers is irrelevant.  It doesn't make the system immune to fraud, but it removes the only substantially weak link in the chain.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The Stinger

In Diablo 3, you can get a lot of stuff by playing the game - running the campaign, doing bounties, doing rifts.  Of course you can do better than that.

Arreat Core always had seven chests in it and it was a small area, so running Arreat Core just to get the chests produced gear faster than just killing the monsters you meet in a random area.  The cursed chest in Old Tristram summons the Skeleton King so you can fight him and get his boss loot drop without having to worry about dying and having to start over, which means you can fight him on a much higher difficulty.  There are uniques that spawn in particular points so you can farm them at high difficulty level, fighting one unique and then reloading.  Another thing people do is making mobility builds and then doing bounties on normal in multi-player games, completing the five bounties in an act very quickly to get the box.

For the chests in Arreat Core, staff at Blizzard decided that it was too efficient and/or did not reflect the way the game they wanted to make, so they reduced the number of chests in a hotfix.

I think I've written before about how I think balance is stupid.  Screw balance, let people play however they want.  Balance is for player versus player only.  That being said, Arreat Core chest farming is a pretty silly hill to die on.  This was not compelling gameplay that needed to be protected as another way to have fun.

Still, I don't really like the change.  What I don't like about it mostly is the timing.  Reaper of Souls came out on March 25.  Today is April 4.  In the first eleven days of the games existence there have been plenty of hotfixes applied.

I don't have a problem with hotfixes:

  • Skills that deal Physical damage should no longer benefit from items that increase elemental skill damage.

Now that's a good hotfix.

But a hotfix that takes away one of the best ways to generate look applied so quickly seems to encourage people to seek out and engage in other similar methods of play.

I didn't do any Arreat Core chest runs, but now I feel like I should have.  I heard about that strategy only two days before it was removed from the game.  While "forever" is much too long to hunt for chests to get better loot to hunt for more chests, two seems like a reasonable number of days to engage in some less-fun gameplay to get a long term advantage at the monster killing.

There will be another optimized strategy for getting loot, and another after that.  Hotfixing them quickly encourages everyone to read the best ways to play on the internet and take advantage of those while the getting is still good.  It creates an urgency around utilizing loopholes that makes them far more appealing than they would have been otherwise.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


I recently argued about the nature of rights with some guy on a message board.

In the end, I'm not entirely sure what point he was trying to make but I have some pretty strong opinions about the way he tried to make it.

He basically rolled out a greatest hits of my least favourite things people can do in an argument - say someone doesn't understand you without attempting to clarify, appeal to completely anonymous authority, rebut only what you perceive to be the weakest sentence of the opposing position, quote the definition of a word from a dictionary - plus pulling out a rather impressive, "I'm getting the feeling you might not be up to this discussion."

More than any of that, the thing that bugs me the most was calling what I wrote "strawman" arguments. Now I can't rule out the possibility that he is actually much more informed than I am about rights and has a much better considered opinion. But if you are the person of superior understanding and you decide to engage in a discussion with others, you are still accountable for how you express yourself. If someone parrots back a bad version of your argument, there is a very good chance it is because you did not clearly state your argument.

Communication involves both a speaker and a listener, so there is always the possibility that someone just isn't willing to listen.  But deciding up front that a listener won't to hear what you have to say is useful to only one end: It maintains your illusion of superiority. If you have any goal other than that, you should be listening to "strawman" arguments with the goal of improving your explanations of your point - or, perhaps, of discovering that someone else actually has a good point.

In university I learned a huge list of logical fallacies. In the last few years I've read a lot about cognitive biases. You should learn about logical fallacies so that you can avoid making them. You should learn about cognitive biases so that you can try to work past them. When you learn about these things to add to your arsenal of ways to dismiss others, you are dedicating your intelligence making yourself more stupid.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Slime Mold

If the vast majority of decisions made by humans, from the inconsequential choice between two types of ice cream to the most monumental decisions in history, had been simulated by slime mold, we probably wouldn't notice the difference.

Keeping growing tendrils to the oatmeal with me, my mindless brothers and sisters!