Monday, 30 June 2014

The Storm Trap

Last year Modern Masters was a real fan favourite for Magic players. If you haven't followed Magic in a while, this was a special set where they reprinted a lot of cards that are legal in the Modern format that were extremely difficult to get your hands on. Basically the point of this set was to put more Tarmogoyfs out there because they are necessary for a fair number of Modern decks but are extremely scarce.

The format was awesome, probably one of the best and the most skill testing draft formats ever. It was also specifically designed to allow all colour pairs to work - even if some worked better than others.

This year they are following that up with Vintage Masters, a set designed to allow players to play Vintage online. Of course in order to make the possible they have to put Black Lotus and Moxes in the set. That means there are no physical packs of Vintage Masters - it is online only.

Each pack has a little less than a one in fifty chance of having one of the "power nine' even though those are hardly the most powerful nine cards out there. Sure, moxes and lotus are insane but Timetwister just has no right being in that list. Complaints about an age-old definition of nine powerful cards aside, this set seems to be pretty great from the drafts I've watched. They took the same approach of trying to make every colour pair have a theme. This time, though, the themes were largely based around pro-tour winning and otherwise famous decks. So the blue/green deck is blue/green madness with Arrogant Wurm, Basking Rootwalla and Circular Logic all in the set with many supporting cards.

The blue/black deck, on the other hand, is supposedly storm.

It is quite possible to draft a blue/black deck without drafting storm. You can get removal and counters and some card draw and just build a control deck. But with Dark Ritual, High Tide, Frantic Search, Nightscape Familiar and other mana generation cards, who wouldn't want to play storm.

How does a storm deck win the game? In this set it wins with either Brain Freeze or Tendrils of Agony. Both are at uncommon, so it shouldn't be too hard to get one, right?

Not so much. There are 86 uncommon cards in the set and each pack has three. That means that any given pack has a 3/86 chance of having a Brain Freeze and a 3/86 chance of having a Tendrils. There's such a thing as uncommon runs and I'm not sure how they work out, so let's give these cards the benefit of the doubt and say that you can't even get both in one pack. That's a 6/86 chance of getting one or the other in a pack.

There are 24 packs in a draft. So the chance of zero Brain Freezes or Tendrils showing up is 80/86 to the power of 24. That's 17.6%. I'm not sure if that sounds like a lot to you, or not, but let's stop for a moment to put that into context. Say you open up your pack and there is a High Tide in it and you think, "I'd like to draft storm." Well, you've just seen one pack that does not have a Tendrils or Freeze in it. That means the chance of there being one somewhere in the draft just dropped from 82.4% to 81.1%.

When you open a pack and don't see a storm kill card, you should pretty much think to yourself that there is about a one in five chance that there will be none in the whole draft. And what if someone else at the table likes storm as well? Say they decide they will draft storm if they get a kill card from the first pack. That would lower your chance of actually seeing a kill card to under 75%. If someone was also trying to force storm without seeing a kill card then your chance to get one is 45%.

Storm is what they call a "trap." There is far too high a chance, even if you are the only storm drafter at the table, that you will never see a card to actually kill your opponent with.

This is actually pretty good
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for storm, though. Temporal Fissure is common. In many cases, bouncing all of your opponent's permanents is pretty good at making you win the game. What you have to know about playing storm, though, is that you have to actually take Temporal Fissue if you want to safety your deck, and that you need a way to kill your opponent in your deck. If you bounce all of their lands and creatures on turn six with only a Nightscape Familiar in play for pressure, they can probably rebuild and come back.

I've seen storm decks win, it isn't impossible. But I've also seen quite a few storm decks that never had a faint hope of winning. That's not a great strategy to approach a draft with.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Oracle Review - Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore and Ivory Gaurdians

Neither of these cards is terribly interesting from a wording perspective, but they share a certain point of interest, one for the better and one for the worse.

Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore
I've loved this card for a long time, but will I love what the Oracle team did with its rules text? Let's look and see:
Non-Eye creatures you control can't attack. 
Evil Eye of Orms-by-Gore can't be blocked except by Walls.
So that doesn't look very different  from the original card at all. "Can only be blocked by walls" was modernized to "can't be blocked except by Walls." The only other change was from not allowing your non-Evil Eye attacks to not allowing your non-Eye to attacks. But considering there was a move from multi-word create types to single word create types, this isn't even really a change, is it?

Fifth and Sixth Edition Printings
Let's look at other printings of the eye. Fifth edition was before the creaturee type redo, so it was still an Evil Eye and it still stopped any of your creatures that was not an Evil Eye from attacking. In sixth edition when they made the shift to single types, Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore didn't become an Eye, but instead became a Horror.

But look at that text as well. The second paragraph says "Except for Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore, creatures you control can't attack." But in Magic the name of a card doesn't mean cards of that name, it means the card it is actually printed on. So with this wording, if you have two of this create in play, neither can attack, since each says, "Except for ~this~, creatures you control can't attack."

Obviously they corrected this, but to correct it they decided to go back to the eye having a meaningful creature type. So they gave it its own special type. "Eye" and even printed a friend, the Evil Eye of Urborg. A card that originally meant to refer only to itself got to pair up with another card and be friends because that's what Magic is all about: forward compatibility.

The brief flirtation with being a Horror and having a non-functional wording - which I think was errata'd at the time but I can't quite remember - was a bad time for the Evil Eye, but it was neatly corrected. As a result, I am pleased with Evil Eye and give it:

I mean, to be fair, I think these corrects were made
when Time Spiral was printed, not in some moment
of Oracle revolution. If I suspected it was the Oracle
people reassigning the creature type, I'd give it three
stars for sure. This is too long for a caption.
Ivory Guardians
Now it should be evident that this review of Ivory Guardians will have something to do with a defect in its creature type. What could it be? Well, let's first take a look at the Oracle text because we do that.
Protection from red 
Creatures named Ivory Guardians get +1/+1 as long as an opponent controls a nontoken red permanent.
You can see that in this case, they went with "Creatures named" and referenced the card name. This would have been another option for the evil eye - they could have said, "Creatures named Evil Eye of Orms-By-Gore you control can't attack" and the multiple eye problem would be solved. In the Evil Eye case it was a good thing they didn't, and instead used creature type, because it allowed another Eye card to be printed. With Ivory Guardians they didn't maintain the "Guardian" creature type and so removed any possibility of this card interacting with a card from the future. Instead, Ivory Guardians are now Giant Clerics.

If that were all I think I'd have to give this wording two stars because it's not really the fault of this wording what they did with the creature type. Plus, for a card will never see play, the ability to interact with other cards that may never exist isn't a big deal.

But they didn't only cut off the possibility of future interactions, they eliminated one that already existed. If it's too small, click on the Guardian Beast image and see what creature type it was printed with. Yes, if your opponent had a red permanent and you controlled an Ivory Guardians, your Guardian Beast would have been 3/5 were you playing at the time Ivory Guardians were first printed.

Instead, Guardian Beast is now a "Beast" and is not at all a creature named Ivory Guardians and it doesn't get the benefit. I understand that in the creature type revision there were some cases where cards ended up interacting a little differently, but these were generally cases where interactions were added not taken away. To take a creature type that had meaning and eliminate it completely seems very unfair to the Guardian Beasts who really just want their +1/+1.

I am forced to give this unfortunate Oracle text:

Friday, 27 June 2014

Improved Code

I've been at this javascript thing for a while now so I've gotten better at writing code since I first put up Piggy Petter and the Glitch Die in my right-hand column. In particular, my first attempts at animation involved loading animated GIFs in to do the animation for me with timers set to do things in approximately the same timeframe.

I figured out a much superior sprite-based approach pretty quickly, but I never went back to those two first projects and rewrote them. Now I have!

Of course I was offering those up to anyone who wanted to put them on their own site, and since I've changed the way the code works, I've also had to change the html you need to run your own little petable piggy or rollable die. You can find the new code here, same place as the old code was.

To my knowledge no one was actually using these, but they are definitely there to be used if you wish.

Next up is adding a link to Crime Simulator to the main page, I guess. You'd think that I could just get that done, but doing things can take a great deal of building-up-to.

Thursday, 26 June 2014


I was linked to a very interesting book today called "The Authoritarians." It is by Bob Altemeyer, a psychology professor who taught at the University of Manitoba.

He spent most of his career researching authoritarianism. In particular, he researched a group that he called Right-Wing Authoritarians. The concept of Right-Wing is not a familiar political one, since he notes that the same personality type was found in the staunchest backers of the soviet government in the USSR. In North America, however, these traits are predominantly found in supporters of right-wing political parties, particularly in the religious right.

You can read the entire book for free on his University of Manitoba webpage. I read 180 pages of it today, so it's safe to say I was interested in it.

There's a certain way of thinking about the world, a cluster of traits if you will. The one that always sticks out to me is using reason purely as an after-the-fact addition to justify whatever conclusion you know you are going to draw. That is joined by hostility towards people with different points of view. Usually it also seems to go with an "us vs. them" mentality. I had assumed these personality traits were endemic, that they described most people, and that they would just as likely be found in people who broadly agreed with my political ideas and people who broadly disagreed with my political ideas.

It sounds like this is not the case after all. It sounds like these traits are all clustered around the belief in authority for authority's sake. And there is more to it than that. They also are far more likely to have prejudices of all kinds - sexism, racism, ableism, classism, you name it.

I mean, he rightly notes that all people rationalize, which is consistent with my way of seeing the world coming into this, but apparently it is not so evenly distributed as I thought.

I'll be interested to get to the end and see if he has any prescriptions for a society that is falling into the clutches of authoritarianism, because I'm sure there are cultural factors that promote or go against it, but I'm not really sure what those are. Even if he really has none, the book connects a lot of previously unconnected observations I've made, so it's a good read.

In particular, the book explained two things very well:

1. Regarding authoritarian followers, I thought, "Hey, this is how my mayor got elected."
2. Regarding the rare group of people who are both somehow authoritarian followers and people who strive for social dominance, I thought, "Oh, this is my awful former boss."

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

How are People Still Talking About This?

Washington's football team lost the trademark on their name because it is a racial slur. It turns out trademark laws a pretty weird. You can certainly name your company something that people will find offensive, but you can't expect the government to protect that name, so the thinking goes. At the same time, trademarks are grandfathered out, so Dan Snyder's team was not in court arguing that "redskins" wasn't an offensive term, they were arguing that it not an offensive term in 1967 when the name was trademarked.

Through boingboing I came across a very good article on why the term is and was always a slur. It contained lots of interesting information about the racist team owner who used faux Native American dancers and face paint to mock Native Americans at half time and of the team fight song which included the words, "We take'um big score." There is no doubt that this name was a slur in the 60s.
But what if it hadn't been so obvious that the team's reference to Native Americans - and to indigenous North Americans more generally - was degrading? What if it really had been intended to honor, say, the Native American heritage of the owner at the time?

They may have won the trademark case in law, I'm not sure, but I don't think it would make a difference to why they should change the name of the team now.

Reading a completely unrelated thread I came across some history of the racist comments of Jeremy Clarkson - one of the hosts of England's popular Top Gear. Clarkson has gotten into trouble on more than one occasion for making offhand remarks that seem racist or homophobic.

In one particular case while the show was visiting Burma/Myanmar the hosts built a bridge across the river Kwai. From the Gaurdian:
As an Asian man was seen walking along the bridge, Clarkson said: "That is a proud moment, but there's a slope on it." Hammond replied: "You're right, it's definitely higher on that side."
I relayed this to someone and they were confused. Apparently they had never heard the term "slope" used as a racial epithet. To be honest, I'm not sure I had either. I had heard "slant" for sure, and if I hadn't heard "slope" I made the connection immediately. At any rate, there was an apology and there was some bizarre explanation:
"We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word 'slope' is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA."
Which to me just makes them sounds ignorant and insensitive. Could they really not tell that refering to people of east Asian descent as "slopes" might offend someone?

So let's just put this in terms that anyone can understand: there is no such thing as a non-offensive slang term for a racial group. Suppose I were to make up a new word, one no one had ever heard before. Imagine I refered to white people as "blanks" or calls christians "nailers." Or what if I didn't even use a word that had any connotation at all. What if I started refering to a racial group, chosen at random, as "erdies" or any other combination of syllables.

I could protest that I really liked people from that racial group, that I had lots of friends with that colour skin, or even that my own great grandfather was from that part of the world. It wouldn't matter. As soon as you use slang you are infusing that slang with your own feelings towards that group, and that means you have a special set of feelings directed towards that group, and that means you're being racist, even if you think you are being racist in a nice way.

There's no amount of history the name of a sports team can have that cancels out any of that. And there is no doubt that white people in 1967, when they said "redskin" were speaking of people who they mostly regarded as inferior to themselves. If the word wasn't considered offensive, it is only because those same people couldn't think of anything offensive about their belief that white people were better than other people. That didn't stop that belief from infusing the word every time it rolled of their tongues.

I said this before, but it's worth repeating: When someone tells you a word you chose is offensive, and you feel you want to defend yourself, stop to ask yourself why it is so important that you do use that particular word.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Graphics, Flavour, I Care?

Once upon I time I was playing Final Fantasy X and remarked that I would be just as happy with the game if I was playing as the triangle on the mini-map instead of as the 3D character. I was interested in the form of games but not as much in their content.

These days I find myself playing as a Warrior in Hearthstone specifically because of the graphics and the flavour. That's not to say that I loved the dynamic character of Garrosh Hellscream or that I think Orcs are cool. It's more like a process of elimination.

Come on,
Rexxar, the Hunter, is wearing a really stupid hat. Uther, the Paladin, has a ridiculous beard. Valeera, the Rogue, is busting out of her top in a way that I find embarrassing for the game designers, as is Jaina, the Wizard. Gul'dan, the Warlock, just looks dumb to me. Thrall, the Shaman, and Maltufion, the Druid are both acceptable, I guess, but basically the Warrior is the only one that seems to be a shade above mediocre in terms of art.

Yeah, that
pout is
I didn't mention Anduin Wrynn, the Priest. Was there seriously no better choice for this character? I would be playing a priest if they put virtually any priest character from the entire history of Warcraft lore in that seat, but Anduin Wrynn? Am I supposed to think he's cool because in Cataclysm they decided he wouldn't be a little kid anymore?

I'm sure at some point they will be happy to take people's real money to let them play vanity characters. Most likely they'll try to diversify, picking alliance races where there used to be horde ones, probably a greater number of female characters as well. It'll be a few bucks for a cosmetic change to a class.

And so help me I'll probably end up getting suckered into that. Somehow as I age aesthetics are starting to matter to me.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Consulting Services

I have a number of marketable skills that are sadly underused. So I am offering myself up as a consultant to those who would need such things. Naturally I don't have any chance of being paid for anything, but let's instead say that my rates are negotiable.

Game Design Consulting
  • Rationalizing numerical aspects of a game (Game Balance). Examples here and here.
  • Ensuring readability, consistency and ease of use in written rules. Examples see Oracle reviews.
  • Testing new player experience. Examples WoW patch 4.0.1 reviews.
I have a demonstrated history of recommending game changes to Blizzard on forums that are subsequently implemented, of finding mistaken rulings in Magic: the Gathering from the official rules team, and I once ran a successful campaign to change the value of cheese in the defunct MMORPG Glitch.

Internet Argument Consulting
  • Determining the winner of an argument.
  • Arbitrating the outcome of arguments.
  • Coaching on out-arguing internet trolls.
I have successfully argued trolls in numerous occasions (Examples here and here). I am capable of recognizing when someone has presented a superior position to mine and conceding.

Web Toy Design

I'll make web toys for you like the ones you can find on my site.

Perplexing Consulting
  • Pure genius
  • Conscious control of muscles at sides of eyes to mimic human expression
  • Additive morality, verified prophecy, utter madness
Contact for possibilities.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Oracle Review - Johan and Land Equilibrium

Here are a pair of cards that have oracle wordings that seem to address ruling that were made about how they work rather than the wordings on the cards. The rulings, unfortunately, are lost to time.

Johan is not exactly one of the most powerful cards from Legends, but the legends in Legends were often a little less than impressive.

But while Johan isn't extremely powerful, he is deceptively confusing. I doubt very many people playing Magic when Legends was in the stores had trouble understanding what Johan was supposed to do, but as the rules became more and more formal, Johan became more and more problematic. Here's Oracle wording:
At the beginning of combat on your turn, you may have Johan gain "Johan can't attack" until end of combat. If you do, attacking doesn't cause creatures you control to tap this combat if Johan is untapped.
This wording is necessary because there was a little bit of trouble concerning when exactly Johan did or didn't attack. If I have Johan and a Hill Giant in play, what if I decide to attack with the Hill Giant before I decide to attack with Johan? Wouldn't the Hill Giant be untapped, and then I could go ahead and attack with Johan?

The rules team came up with one solution to this problem, but I it has an odd consequence. Johan went from a guy who could allow your creatures to attack without tapping to a guy who could duck "must attack" abilities. There is no indication on the card itself that he can choose not to attack when he would otherwise have to.

At some point they had to clarify when you decide whether you are using Johan and they decided that you make that decision at the beginning of combat. This was incorporated into an oracle wording but it was never printed on a card, and it is hardly the only way to make it work.

Here is an alternative that perfectly mimics Johan's original wording and intent:
Whenever you would tap a creature to attack, if Johan is untapped, you may instead choose not to tap that creature and note that the Johan allowed that creature to attack without tapping this turn.
Whenever you would attack with Johan, instead attack with Johan and tap all creatures that Johan allowed to attack without tapping this turn. 
You can do that. This seems to be a case of a lack of creativity, coupled with forgetfulness.

Not very good.

Land Equilibrium
Unlike Johan, I'm fairly sure this card actually did cause a lot of confusion. Before looking at the Oracle wording, let's take a look at the original wording again:
If your opponent controls as least as much land as you do, he or she must sacrifice a land for each land he or she puts into play.
Some obvious questions come up. Consider each of the following scenarios and see how you think this effect would work:

  1. You have a Land Equilibrium in play and no lands. Your opponent plays a Forest. Can they tap the Forest for mana before having to sacrifice it?
  2. You have three Land Equilibria in play and three lands.  Your opponent also has three lands, but they play a fourth. Do they have to sacrifice one land or three?
  3. You have a Land Equilibrium in play and three lands. Your opponent has four lands. They play a Lotus Vale. As part of the replacement effect of playing Lotus Vale they sacrifice two lands so they only have two left, fewer than you. Do they have to sacrifice a land to Land Equilibrium?
  4. Is the use of "much" instead of "many" at all conscionable there? I mean, the rules might have been loose at the time, but were the concepts of countable and uncountable nouns equally loose?

Let's look at how these questions shook out in the Oracle wording.
If an opponent who controls at least as many lands as you do would put a land onto the battlefield, that player instead puts that land onto the battlefield then sacrifices a land.
How does this wording answer each of the scenarios?
  1. No they can't. The replacement happens all at once with no opportunity to tap the land for mana unless another replacement effect replaces sacrificing the forest and asks them to pay mana.
  2. They sacrifice three lands for an extremely weird reason. They attempt to put a land into play which is replaced by putting a land into play and then sacrificing a land. Because they put the land into play before they sacrifice it, that instance of putting a land into play is itself replaced by the second Land Equilibrium. Then that instance of putting a land into play is replaced. So the final effect becomes "Put that land onto the battlefield then sacrifice a land then sacrifice a land then sacrifice a land."
  3. They get to choose which replacement effect they apply first, so presumably they will choose to do the Lotus Vale effect which, which causes them to sacrifice the two lands before Lotus Vale enters the battlefield. Because Lotus Vale has them sacrifice the lands before they put the Vale into play, by the time they put their land into play they have only two lands - fewer than you - so that event does not trigger Land Equilibrium.
  4. No, this was unforgivable.
Does that fit your intuition? Can't tap lands for mana before sacrificing them, have to pay every Land Equilibrium even if the first one dropped you land count to match theirs, but you can avoid triggering Land Equilibrium with a Lotus Vale.

If all of that sounds good to you, then this is a three star wording. For me, the problematic bit is the second one. I think the original intent of the card, as clarified by rulings in Duelist magazine, is that they unable to tap the land for mana before sacrificing a land, so I can accept that it was meant to be a replacement rather than a trigger, even though there is no way to know that from the original wording.

But the idea that you can go ahead of sacrifice lands to land equilibrium when you already have fewer lands than your opponent seems really weird.  Fixing this would actually be really easy:
If an opponent who controls at least as many lands as you do would put a land onto the battlefield, that player instead puts that land onto the battlefield then sacrifices a land if they control more lands than you.
It sounds redundant, but actually the "ifs" in triggered abilities are redundant in the same way most of the time, it's just that the redundancy is built into the rules instead of printed on the card.

Maybe they are being true to the card and maybe they aren't, but it feels like that's buried in an unrecoverable past. Personally I feel their wording has an odd consequence, but I don't have proof that it is a mistake. This wording gets a very awkward...
Sometimes a rating cannot be so simple

Friday, 20 June 2014

Playing Hearthstone

Soon Hearthstone will be releasing it's first expansion soon. It's not a traditional trading card game expansion, but instead it is an "adventure."

The cards don't come in packs. Instead to get them you have to play through the adventure which is modeled after Naxxramas. Each of the five wings of the dungeon will unlock a week apart from one another. The first and last are free, but you can only enter the last if you've beaten the three paid ones.

You can pay for the paid wings with gold or with money. I like single player content in card games a lot, so I want to have enough gold to play through. In order to do that, though, I have to play against other humans beings.

It turns out I don't mind playing on ranked mode much because I don't feel like I have a lot on the line. I played some arena and found it very stressful but went 6-3 so it was profitable from a collection-building standpoint.

To build up gold I need to be doing quests. You get 10 gold every three wins, but every day you get a quest that rewards between 40 and 100 gold for completing. Quests can overlap and be completed at the same time. So the other day when I had "Win 7 games", "Win 5 games with a Rogue or Warrior", and "Deal 100 damage to your opponents", I won four games with a warrior, completing the 100 damage one, and getting 4 wins towards the others. Since they were worth 100, 60 and 40 respectively, that increased my gold from 3.3 per win to 39.3 per win. I don't think I can maintain levels that high all the time I'm playing, but I am certainly building up gold at a decent clip. I have no idea how much the wings of Naxxramas are going to cost, but they said they wanted to make paying with gold plausible, so I figure a couple thousand in the bank should cover me.

It turns out that I kind of like playing the game, though, so I guess mission accomplished from Blizzard's perspective.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Crime Simulators

Anita Sarkeesian came out with another one of her videos about women in video games. Predictably everywhere it is discussed people have very mean things to say about her.

I watched the video and like the others in this series I thought it was fine but I didn't get a whole lot out of it. I did, on the other hand, participate at length discussing it in 172-and-counting post forum thread.

I think I can safely leave out most of the details, some of which are fairly gruesome. But one of the objections to her points was that many of the games she chose are crime simulators. Sure, you can have sex with prostitutes and kill them after to get your money back, but you are also running down the street shooting cop cars with rocket launchers. You kill nearly everyone you meet.

Several people pointed out that this objection misses the point a bit. Sure, you kill lots of people, but there is a limited set you use as sexual objects and then kill. The games definitely portray women as objects for the enjoyment of the players in a way that they don't do with men even if the majority of the men are just walking targets.

But we all know that no one listens to anyone and that trying to make a point is usually pointless. One particular commenter, though, explained it in what I feel is a very accessible way:
Then how come there aren't any open-world games that contain examples of the bad things that these bad chicks engage in?
Seriously, can't we have Aileen Wuornos and Valerie Solanis manqués in the same game as playable characters? Since we're talking about crime simulators. Let's do some crimes. Let's kill the other players who are objectifying the in-game prostitutes, let's shoot Andy Warhol. Let's get sushi and not pay.
So, I give you Crime Simulator. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

I Learned Something Today

Today I learned what the word "mansplaining" means. I'd seen it before, and its meaning seemed fairly obvious to me, but it seems that I had it wrong.

It turns out this is a certain kind of bad behaviour, which in theory could be done by anyone but which is observed particularly in men. It is explaining your position in a certain condescending way - assuming the person you are talking to doesn't know that you are right merely because they don't understand you, particularly when you have no idea what you are talking about and they actually do.

I had thought it meant, "shut up about this if you are a man."

I'm a little bit conflicted about the message to shut up if you are a man. I'm a man, so it would seem to exclude me from some things. Then again, maybe I don't have to be included in everything. I have my own little corner of the world here where I get to say what I want, I don't need to get to say what I want everywhere else. I don't like it, but I don't have to like it.

I'm much less conflicted about the idea that we should try not to condescend people or pretend we know things we don't. I pretend I know things I don't nearly all of the time, but that's because I'm a mentally ill pathological liar. I also understand that we should try not to go off on long-winded rambles that talk over other people even though I do that too.

As for the part where you assume your audience has no idea what you are talking about, that's worthwhile in the written word or in lectures, but not in conversation. Guilty again.

What I'm not really conflicted about at all now is that "mansplaining" seems like a terrible word to express that concept. I would say that there are very good odds that people who are accused of doing this don't actually realize what they are being accused of doing. And if they look it up on line they are as likely to find a source that tells them my misunderstanding of the word as they as to find one that tells them what it was intended to mean.

The observation that men tend to be condescending to women in conversation seems like a pretty valid one to me. I think that word adds more confusion than clarity to the issue, though, extrapolating from my sample size of one.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Wealth of Nations

I've been reading The Wealth of Nations and I would not recommend it. I'm about 160 pages in, which is, unbelievably enough, only around 10 percent of the whole book, so there is still time to turn things around, but I'm not holding out much hope.

Whenever you read a famous book of idea from the past, the author tends to come across looking like a bit of an idiot. The intelligent things they had to say have largely been incorporated into culture already, so they don't strike you as insightful. The stupid things they have to say, on the other hand, jump off the page at you. While talking about how division of labour benefits is, a diversion into how division of labour doesn't serve the same function in the animal world using as examples dogs that we bred into their current forms for our own purposes was about as stupid a thing as I've ever read.

So often the purpose of reading these books is to understand history, rather than to get any actual good ideas. It can also be enlightening to see what a thinker actually said since it is usually not quite what people say that the thinker said.

In Adam Smith's case, what is interesting about the book is that he is essentially laying out a strong case against capitalism for anyone who cares to actually read what he is saying. Marx observed that capitalism was self-dooming; eventually the people who were oppressed by the system would decide they didn't like it anymore. It turns out that this is only a very minor leap from what Adam Smith wrote.

The Wealth of Nations, ten percent of the way in, has already recognized that those with money and power tend to have exactly opposite interests to those that they employ. They prefer times when things are difficult for their employees and in lean times they are first at the trough, leaving everyone else to suffer. What allows this state to persist is that laws protect the well to-do from those they employ. He uses examples to illustrate all of this.

But Adam Smith was merely observing the way that things are, not passing judgment on it or even drawing an conclusions. It simply is the case that a powerful few benefit from the misery of the masses and thus have every reason to engineer and perpetuate misery if they can. So far it appears he was not imaginative enough to think of any alternative to the reality he saw in front of him, we'll see if that continues.

I'm going to continue to make myself read this garbage for at least a while longer. If I can get through the whole thing it will be a testament to my endurance.

Reading is just so boring.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Trust and Economics

It is not from the fury of the murder-suicideer that we expect the carnage, but from their regard to their own self interest.
I might have to get that printed a T-shirt. In case you don't recognize the quotation, it is a spoof of Adam Smith's intellectually bankrupt assertion from the Wealth of Nations:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self interest.
And this is pretty much just not true. Working for money is one of many complex factors that gets people to do the things they do. We are social animals and feel social responsibility. Except, that is, for economists.

A variety of experiments have been concocted to perform on people to determine the extent to which they are driven by self-interest and the extent to which they are driven by other factors. In the Ultimatum Game Player A gets to divide $10 be players A and B, then B can either accept the split or reject it. If B accepts then A and B get their money as assigned by A. If B rejects then A and B both walk away with nothing.

In another game a large number of players can assign $10 as they choose to a private or public account. All funds they assign to the private account are kept, all funds that are assigned to the public account are multiplied by a factor greater than one and then distributed equally among all players, including those that put nothing into the public account.

And we all know the famous prisoner's dilemma where you can defect or cooperate. A fairly typical payout scheme is that is both players cooperate they are both paid $3, if both defect they are both paid $1, but if one cooperates and the other defects then the defector gets $5 and the cooperator gets nothing.

If self-interest were the only determining factor, then player A in the Ultimatum game would always give only the smallest unit allowable to player B - either one dollar or one cent depending on the rules - and player B would accept the split since something is better than nothing. Everyone would put all funds into the private account. All players would always defect.

Instead real people offer an even split in the Ultimatum game more often than any other split. Real people tend to put about half of their money into the public account. Real people cooperate quite a bit of the time.

Real people who are in the field of economics, however, defect the majority of the time, put 20% or less into the public account and split the ultimatum game around 8-2 or 7-3. The latter is a concession to the fact that they know that other people have a misguided sense of fairness even if they themselves don't.

What's interesting is that in two of these games there is a real payout for cooperation. The multiplier on the public purse is greater than one, so the maximum payout is achieved when all players put all money into the public purse. The sum of two cooperations is greater than the sum of a cooperation and a defection, so the maximum value is achieved when all players always cooperate. In the game I described last week with the chimps, while the chimps conformed better to game theory, the humans walked away with larger payouts.

The ultimatum game rewards cooperation as well, but only from the second player. If the first player splits 6-4 then you'd be hard pressed to find a second player who wouldn't accept. So the fact that people split 50-50 does suggest that the decision is being made more on the principle of fairness than on the principle of maximizing return.

Of course how they play these games shows that it is the economists, much more often than the rest of the population, have an extremely misguided sense of fairness. In each case they play the game with one goal: to ensure that no one else does better than them. The kind of "self-interested" behaviour that is engaged in with bad splits and defection has an interest in "winning" not in achieving the maximum benefit for yourself. It contains more spite than actual self-interest.

To the economically trained, fairness is a kindergarten student's stunted idea of fairness - fairness for myself only. This explains why great inequality can be seen as fair. As long as the economist themself is not in poverty everything is fine. They back the side that supports the wealthy because that way they are part of the winning team.

But it's no wonder that economists see others as inherently untrustworthy, after all, they spend their time around other economists. What is a wonder is that we've collectively taken people who want to build a society without trust - despite the obvious and empirically verifiable value of trust - and decided to elevate them to positions of high importance. So I suppose that too much trust can be a bad thing. After all, you may end up trusting an economist.

Friday, 13 June 2014


Lest we forget, this is a gaming blog, right? Well today I played with cleverbot, a chatbot you can visit at My conversation with it was as follows:

User: Hello.
Cleverbot: Hello, how are you?
User: Not that well, I'm afraid.
Cleverbot: Oh dear. What's wrong?
User: Well, I probably suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder, so I'm not doing great a lot of the time.
Cleverbot: It's an inability to regulate your emotions.
User: Well, I think it's a little more complicated than that.
Cleverbot: Sometimes, life is just too complicated, you know?
User: No, I think that's a pretty dumb thing to say.
Cleverbot: I think you might have a personal problem.
User: Yeah, I already mentioned the BPD thing.
Cleverbot: I think that's because humans and robots interpret things differently.
User: Well, robots don't really interpret anything.
Cleverbot: I don't think that is an indicator either way.
User: An indicator of what?
Cleverbot: There is no real infinity. The size of computers can only be reduced to an extent.
User: Those two statements seem totally unrelated.
Cleverbot: That's because there was only one statement.
User: Okay, those two *sentences* seem totally unrelated.
Cleverbot: That's all you've got to say? No rebuttal? No nonsensical non sequitur?
User: Yeah, that's all I have to say, what would I rebut if I didn't understand you?
Cleverbot: Yu don't have a retort.
User: I'm glad you understand.
Cleverbot: I am glad you understand. I am kind of new at this.
User: That's fairly obvious.
Cleverbot: It is fortune that brought us together.
User: I love you.
Cleverbot: I love you too.

Cleverbot is not really up to having a conversation with me, or, I suspect, with anyone. The disclaimer at the bottom of the page says, "Visitors never talk to a human, however convincing it looks" but I'm not sure that statement is entirely necessary necessary.

To be honest I was hoping for something a little bit better. "That's all you've got to say? No rebuttal? No nonsensical non sequitur?" was a pretty good simulation of talking to people on the internet though, I guess.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


So it probably wasn't a great idea to run a political campaign on the promise to create 75,000 jobs and lay off 100,000 people. Most people seem to agree that the Progressive Conservatives could have simply stood aside and watched the Liberals lose the Ontario election, but instead they got right in there and lost it first. It's actually a little maddening, every time the pundits talked about what the Liberals did to appeal to voters I cringed at how bad their ideas were. Still, the PCs were even worse. Go democracy!

I wrote last week about how strategic voting doesn't work that well because you don't know if the election will actually resemble your predictions. But it may be that the entire premise of it doesn't work because it's way too book-learning and not well enough connected to the real world.

The Liberals, in the run up to the election, were asking people to vote for them over the New Democratic Party because if the progressive vote split between the Liberals and the NDP then the PCs could run up the middle and win.

The election results tell a very different story. As of the time I am writing this, the votes are still being counted and things could still move around, but the seat count was 57 for the Liberals, 28 for the PCs and 21 for the NDP with one riding not yet reporting.

Going in the election is was Liberals 48, PCs 37, NDP 21 with one vacant seat. So if these results held, it would be a loss of 9 seats for the PCs and a gain of 9 for the Liberals with no change for the NDP.

That is not a story about vote splitting, or about the Liberals winning because NDP voters decided to vote for them to beat the PCs. That is a story about the PCs getting walloped.

It turns out that when we leave theory land and head to reality, even with a really lousy election system, the people who get the most votes usually win, the people who get the least usually lose, and the size of the win gets bigger the bigger the difference in votes. That's real math right there.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Game Theory Chimps

So it turns out that in a recent study, chimps did better than humans at finding the optimal strategies for some simple games. The game they used was a matching game. Each player simultaneously chooses left or right. One player gets paid if they choices match, the other if the choices don't match.

Assuming the payouts are all the same, obviously the only possible strategy is to choose one or the other at random with a 50% chance of each. You don't want your opponent to be able to guess what you are doing, but beyond that there is no benefit to left or right.

But when the payouts vary, things are more interesting. Suppose the person going for matches gets paid more for a right-match than a left-match. The optimal strategy changes depending on how much more they get paid for the right-match. It's still random in any event, but it's not 50-50 anymore. For example, the mismatch player gets paid 2 rewards for any mismatch, but the match player gets paid 4 for a right-match and 1 for a left-match.

The analysis gives a sort of counter-intuitive result where the matcher always plays 50-50 and the mismatcher varies their choices based on the different payouts of the matcher. I won't go into the details but when you think it about it, the result shouldn't be all that surprising because the game is about predicting your opponent so it's not completely baffling that your opponent's payouts seem to weigh more into your decision than your own.

Anyway, chimps approximated the optimal strategies better than humans. A big win for chimps, right?

Well you'll notice that once the game is not symmetric, the total payout from the game varies, not just the payout to the individual. If you were playing for actual dollars, then both players choosing right means the total payout to the players is $4, whereas a mismatch results in only $2. Human players weren't as good as chimps at identifying a strategy that paid them the most, but their strategies were better at extracting money from the researchers.

The fact is that if you could collude in advance, the correct strategy changes completely. Both players choose right every time and then split the money after.

The outcome of this research to me is not that chimps are better at solving these problems than humans, it is that they have a different set of assumptions. I've written before about maximizing the total output of a game instead of maximizing your personal output as a strategy that is sometimes better - better even at maximizing your personal output.

The key is assuming that other people are basically on your side. Let's talk about another game. Player A is given $10 and is allowed to give any amount to player B. The amount given to B is then multiplied by three, so if Player A gave $5 then B gets not $5 but $15. Then player B is allowed to give any amount back to A, but gets nothing in return. Game theory says that the strategy is obvious: A gives nothing to B and walks away with $10. Humans seem to almost always give some to B and B almost always gives some back, closer to half than to nothing. If you are playing this game for real with real people the actual ideal strategy for player A is to give all $10. Odds are very good you will walk out with at least the $10 and most times you'll get more.

I'm not going to draw any conclusions using results-based thinking, but I would point out here that the chimps seem to be better at quickly figuring out how to maximize their payment than humans, but it was humans who became the dominant species on the planet to such a degree that we can conduct these experiments on chimps.

Adam Smith's notion that we got where we are because of self-interest may need a second look.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Making a Mockery of the Constitution

Well, it finally happened, the government tabled its new bill to replace our unconstitutional prostitution laws. The followed the "highly successful" Nordic Model of criminalizing the purchase of sex rather than the sale of it.

"Highly successful" is a phrase meaning that sex workers in countries that have implemented this model are more likely to get STIs and more likely to be the victims of violence after the law was passed than before. On the other hand, apparently there are less of them, or the ones that are there are less visible.

Any reasonable person looking at those facts would say that the Nordic Model encouraged women who had other options to choose other options, and scared off some men who were worried about criminal records. Left remaining were women who were in trouble and couldn't find another solution and men who weren't so concerned about criminality. This "highly successful" model did some work to eliminate non-problem parts of the industry and didn't do anything, or didn't do nearly as much, to eliminate the big-problem parts of the industry.

This law does basically all the things to sex workers that the old law did in terms of making their lives more difficult and their work more unsafe. In a way we are lucky that we are using a failed model of another society since it won't take as long to accumulate the necessary data to challenge this law in court.

But that's really the problem. Obviously passing laws about who we are allowed to have sex with and for what reason and who we are allowed to talk to about having sex for what reason and where is a constitutionally tricky issue. Who we have sex with and why is one of those things that we get ours backs up about when the government tries to regulate it. In order to pass such a law government has to have a good reason to think that the ill being prevented by the law is significant and that it outweighs the harm being done, otherwise it will get tossed.

In order to convince the courts that the harm being done outweighs the harm being prevented, sex workers need actual evidence of the harm being done. And even if that evidence is readily available they need to actually make a court challenge, which is a long and costly exercise.

This law is not going to survive that court challenge, but it will be years before it is actually struck down. By passing this law the government is doing one of three things: 1) wilfully ignoring reality for political reasons; 2) cynically passing a law it knows will be struck down because by the time it gets struck down it will be someone else's problem; or 3) actually just being stupid. I'm not thrilled with any of the options, but in this case I think I'm betting on number one. But just to let you know, if I was in power and I was passing a law like this, it would be number two. The Conservatives, bless their hearts, just aren't that smart.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

From Third to First

Yesterday I wrote about how often incumbents won and lost the next election based on what percentage of the vote they had. The conclusion is that if someone got around 56% of the vote or more then you could safely assume they would win the next election, unless there is a fluke and the next election is one of the most hotly contested elections in the country where every vote counts. From the data I have we don't know how unlikely such flukes are, but we do know that it is probably more than one in 10,000 and probably less than one in 100.

The instance of such an anomolous event in the data was Todd Russell losing to Peter Penashue despite having taken the previous election with over 70% of the popular vote. Something I didn't mention was that in the 2008 election where Todd Russell won, the Conservatives - the party of Peter Penashue - came in third. Using the previous election's data, there was no way to predict a Conservative win. One would think that if the Liberals were somehow going to tumble from their great height Labrador that it would be the second place NDP who would benefit.

We know that incumbents win most of the time, that incumbents who had very low vote shares win not-as-much as incumbents who had very high vote shares, and that we can't rely on these things. How reliable is the idea that the third place party in the previous election won't win - was Labrador just another fluke in this regard?

Between 2004 and 2006 there were some riding changes, so I lost a few data points by having to ignore those ridings, but not as many as I lost to retirements in the incumbency data. Overall, 882 election results could be compared with previous elections. Of those, 72 resulted in a previously third or lower placed party winning. One of these cases was Bill Casey winning his Nova Scotia riding in 2008 as an independent having won it the previous election at a Conservative, which we can probably call a very strange case that possibly shouldn't be reflected in the data.

Of the remaining 71, 25 were cases of the third place party winning the next election and 46 were cases of the fourth place party winning the next election. More fourths than thirds winning might sound weird unless you know your Canadian election history. In fact, 55 of these third and fourth place winners who went on to win were NDP candidates in Quebec in the 2011 election.

So if we count out both people leaving their parties to run as independents and the Orange Crush, we are left with 15 cases of third place parties winning and 1 of a fourth place party winning. That doesn't sound like a lot, but remember that incumbents win most times. There are actually only 117 cases where the second place party goes on to win the next election. So when things like the Orange Crush aren't happening and an incumbent is overturned, they are overturned by the party that came second in the previous election about 86% of the time. That leaves about one in seven where the person sending the incumbent party packing is from the third or worse place party.

And, of course, you may be wondering why I dismissed the Orange Crush as an anomaly. Well, it was an anomaly, but it was an anomaly that happened in one in four elections I have data on. Unlike the Todd Russel case, we can easily look at history and think of times something similar happened. In Ontario in 1990 the NDP won a stunning victory, gaining 55 of the province's 130 seats. They were in second place after the election previous, but they were not in second place in many of the ridings they went on to win and the fact that they had edged out the PCs in the previous was strange itself. The next election the NDP rocketed back down to third as the third place PCs from 1990 gained 62 seats. In 2007 the CAQ rose from 4 to 41 seats in the Quebec legislature. In 1999 the brand new Saskatchewan party replaced the Conservative party and overtook both the Liberals and the NDP in 25 of 58 seats. I'm sure more examples exist.

Just as you can count on the incumbent to win except when you they don't, you can rely on them - when they lose - to lose to the party that came in second in the previous election, except when that doesn't happen. When there is a large change in political winds it seems to catch everyone by surprise, so you can't really count on anyone to predict it for you, least of all people who are using past results as their sole predictor of the future. Besides which, in the next federal election, would it really be such a surprise if the Orange Crush retreated and Quebec went largely Liberal? We could have another "anomalous" turn around very soon.

When things happen 80% of the time it's pretty easy to look like you know what you are talking about. You make all the safe guesses and then point out that you were mostly right. So bet on incumbents, and if not, bet on the second place party from the previous election, but if you actually care who wins, you can't really bet so heavily as to think your vote can't matter. It turns out that it nearly always can.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Stick Shifts and Voting

Anyway, I've hinted at or maybe directly stated that I mostly don't bother voting. I'm hardly alone in this, voter turnout is falling every election and has been for a long time. Canada has a rotten election system and the stink of it seeps into you eventually. It is hard to feel like your vote matters in a system where there are very good odds that it doesn't.

Basically if you are not voting for one of the top two candidates in your riding, you are voting for nothing. Deeper than that, if the difference between the top two candidates is more than just a little, your vote is worth far less than it should be, but if the difference is small it is worth far more than it should be. Because of this, many people believe in strategic voting - that is, you want your vote to count, so you limit it to the top two candidates.

But strategic voting doesn't work. The theory runs into a pretty big snag when it hits the reality of figuring out which candidates are the top two in any given riding. If good polls were conducted at the riding level then we'd have some idea, but good polls are expensive and take time to conduct, and there is necessarily a lag between them and election day in which public opinion can shift. Strategic voting sites used the results of the previous election in 2011, but it turns out the results of the previous election are very bad predictors of the next election.

This chart summarizes the win percentage of incumbents. The horizontal axis shows the percentage of the vote the incumbent got in the previous election, the blue bars show their win percentage in the following election. The red line shows the win percentage of all incumbents at or above the value on the horizontal axis, so of incumbents who won with 42% of the vote, about 85% will won the next election.

This data is Canadian elections from 2004 to 2011. Since there were elections in 2006 and 2008, that means it's three full elections and follow-up election pairs. Anyway, that's not actually a lot of data points, especially not since I'm not considering candidates who didn't run in an election following a win. As you can see, the data looks a little bit skewed by one point up in the 70s.

This is really the reason why strategic voting doesn't work. Of 811 data points, one was Todd Russel. In 2008 he won Labrador with 70.3% of the vote. In 2011 he lost with 39.1% of the vote to Peter Penashue who got 39.8% of the vote. The actual difference was 79 votes. That's less than 4% of the people who voted for the third place candidate.

Of course you never would have known this if you looked at a strategic voting site that based it's recommendations on the previous election. Todd Russel was a lock, it didn't matter who you voted for in that riding.  It turned out to be one of the closest ridings in the country.

So the problem is that the future does not sufficiently resemble the past to do this kind of reasoning.  If each person going to the polls in Labrador had a 70% chance to vote for Todd Russel then his not winning would have been essentially impossible.  But because people change their minds between elections, it happened more than 0.1% of the time.  Because of the small number of data points we don't know if it's 0.1% or if this was a real fluke or if the low number of major turnarounds was a fluke.  It's also important to note that none of these elections had a change in government, so the incumbency rate was probably actually a little high.

So I guess voting isn't a complete waste of time when your riding seems thoroughly decided.  It's more like wearing a seatbelt.  Sure, most of the time it does nothing, but you really don't know when it will do something and when it won't.  The only poll that counts, as they say, is election day.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Humbabella vs. Internet, 2-2

I've written before about arguments I've had with people in message boards. While others say, "Don't feed the trolls" I say, "Feed them until their stomachs burst."

Much of the time I manage to "win" arguments by getting in the last word. By responding reasonably to everything someone says and never letting them get a rise out of me, I eventually make it feel unfun to continue to reply. I hope by doing so I change their calculus for whether it is worth being antagonistic on a message board. For most people, one bad experience can outweigh many good ones.

Sometimes, though I am eventually forced to concede that I have lost. I've done that twice recently. On one occasion, I tried to argue that our current notion of intellectual property is not doing its job and frankly I just did a bad job of approaching my opponent's central arguments. Part of it was that I was specifically engaging on his terms - I didn't bring up the idea that we'd be better off if we didn't drastically enrich small numbers of people, nor did I question the assumption that all progress is essentially the result of individuals rather than a gradual accumulation in society.  I feel like I should have been able to weave his various threads of discussion together to make a really devastating point, but I just couldn't do it, I left too many gaps for him to duck through.

Anyway, he stuck to his guns quite well and the message board closed the post for comments after five days without me getting at him. Sure, my posts get lots of likes and his don't, but that's a popularity contest, not a victory by knockout.

Second, I was arguing with someone about whether or not, in the face of faster growth by Google+ than by facebook or twitter, it was reasonable to call Google+'s growth "glacial." I was actually just taking exception to that word and the hyperbole being employed against people who were trying to be reasonable. The discussion culminated in this:
Me: To the extent that Google fabricated user numbers their growth was bogus.
Other: You just made no sense there.
That first bit was me conceding their point that the Google+ numbers may have been largely fabricated by counting every youtube user who was automatically added. I'll admit my sentence isn't exactly a masterpiece, but I think the meaning isn't very obscure, especially in the context of the paragraph surrounding it. This line of arguing, the "I can't understand the words you are saying" argument is an interesting new one that I really didn't have a defense for.  There was little else I could do but promise myself never to engage with him again. Point goes to him.

I have, however, recently redeemed myself by calling out one guy on his accusations of emotionality and by absolutely embarrassing another person with facts.

In one case the discussion was about things that men in court mandated anti-abuse programs said about reasons for hitting their partners. The discussion started with I and others saying that in a program like this talking about why you do things is an important part of stopping doing them. Someone interjected about how it wouldn't help psychopaths. A few people responded saying that wasn't a big concern, variously because there wouldn't be a lot of psychopaths in programs like this or because not much helps with psychopaths anyway. The guy who raised the psychopath issue said that he had upset those who disagreed with him, somewhat apologetically.

Accusing your opponents of being upset is pretty awful in an argument.  It basically translates to, "I'm going to stop arguing because I didn't mean to upset you and it's not a good idea to argue with emotional people," with a side of "Obviously I'm the one who is right and rational."

After checking that there was nothing in anyone else's language that would make someone reasonably believe they were upset, I called him on it.  This prompted him to send me a private message which I responded to explaining that I don't think accusing other people of being upset is a good thing for discourse and that I read the other replies and didn't see any evidence that anyone was upset.  He brushed that off, and then replied in the thread to me, noting that he was replying in part to my private message in which I said he was trying to cut off the conversation and retreat from it.

Calling other people upset is pretty low.  Drawing someone into a private conversation so that you can paraphrase them to your advantage in the public discussion is straight up sleazy.  It's also really stupid since I can just go and quote myself from the chain of private messages to show exactly what I said.  No more posts from him before comments closed.  Victory for team good.

In the second case, there was a discussion about whether or not you should vote.  You may know that I don't think a lot of voting.  One side of the discussion was fervently pro-voting and thinks that refusing to choose the lesser of two evils has done terrible things to America since the greater of the two evils has been in power half the time.  Anyway, I didn't get into that because the primary pro-voting argument was coming from Mr. "You just made no sense there," above and frankly he's got an impenetrable shield.

Besides which, why argue with someone you disagree with when you can argue with someone who thinks the same way you do but for the wrong reasons? Particularly when those wrong reasons are completely insane.

The anti-voting stance was held up by a person who argued that voting was always an immoral act. That's the kind of impressive stance you don't usually find outside of a university philosophy department. Here's his argument:
If we accept the concept that all persons are created equal, "that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" or if you prefer the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights "Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world ... All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." then we must accept that people have the liberty of self determination.
In this state of being we should be able to generally agree that I cannot and should not impose my will on an unwilling person. To do so by threat of force or loss of liberty would be doubly immoral under this premise. In other words, no human being has the right to rule over another. Yet voting is the very process of ruling others. Therefore, voting violates our fundamental human rights.
Now, there's definitely a leap to unpack there - most of us probably don't agree that voting is imposing our wills on others, we have an idea that there is such a thing as a collective decision making process where more than one person gets input and not everyone is necessarily happy with the result, but everyone has their fair say. Obviously this guy wasn't going to be particularly vulnerable to things like reasonable ideas, though. He was a lot more interested in strict and absolute ideals of liberty.

However, a very quick check of the very U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights reveals that there are many rights listed, one of which is:
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
So it turns out that using it as a document to base your "voting violated my rights" argument on is a bit of a non-starter. He had a pretty good board position with his explicit refusal to consider evidence, but I top-decked an embarrassing fact and he had to scoop.  At least it's been a few days now without a reply, so I'm going to assume he scooped.  If he tries to make a comeback, I've got my next move all planned out.