“They told me I could be anything in VR, so I became myself”

Back at the start of the millennium, the online world was just recovering from its first bubble. But amongst the various train wrecks of businesses grappling with the value of virtual, there were some cultural aspect that did flourish. Enter Second Life.

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Goodreads review • The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty

The Stack: On Software and SovereigntyThe Stack: On Software and Sovereignty by Benjamin H Bratton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve finished the book, but that doesn’t mean it’s done. On the contrary, I feel like I have to read it again, now that I understand its structure. This is a brilliant, enormous and comprehensive look on the future, or rather, the future we are headed for. It might end well, it might end bad, but The Stack is already here.

It combines a lot of fields and merges them together, not only to explain the Stack, but to become the Stack. It’s a culmination of global computation, resource management, and the Users in between. Who may or may not be humans.

I’ve always had a notion of what the future would be, even with so many “old” concept of futurism becoming reality. The Stack, however, manages to leap-frog that save zone. To look beyond and highlight the border zone where reality and science-fiction meet.

If you want to gain a better understanding of what is happening in the world, if you want to get the direction of technology, and if you want both a warning and a missive about the future, read The Stack. And then read it again.

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Goodreads review • The Slow Regard of Silent Things

The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5)The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Odd, strange, and full of heart. A collection of strings seemingly going nowhere, all stuck in a knot. And then it slowly starts to unravel, make sense. Don’t expect a grand story here. Expect a small one, a tiny tale maybe. Something small enough to cherish and just feel along to as you read.

For something so strange and tiny, this is oddly personal yet resonant. It’s hard to compare it with… anything, but I think the closest I can think of is a video game: Knytt Underground. Which is similar in its theme, feelings and sense-making oddness of it all.

Despite that, it’s a tiny drop of perfection. A story that could go on forever, and somehow you want it to, but stops when it needs to. A curio that, if possible, should be consumed with a mug of hot cocoa on a rainy autumn afternoon close to a hearth. A memory that will nestle snugly in a corner of your mind for tiny grins at a later date.

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European colonialism as a game setting

Developer Wispfire doesn’t want to keep quiet, deny, or forget the world’s colonial past—it wants you to be a part of it. It wants to simulate experience, and teach you “something about yourself and the world around you,” Witsel said.

With (Dutch) colonialism frequently overlooked during my own school time, I find it more than intriguing to find the topic being handled as the setting for a game called Herald. In my opinion, the entire “Zwarte Piet” discussion is a result of the “keep mum about intolerance, to look tolerant” movement that’s been ingrained into Dutch culture, so putting it into the foreground is very much appreciated. Hopefully, this game can help the discussion progress sensibly.

◎ Dutch videogame maker aims to confront his country’s colonial past

Goodreads review • The Three-Body Problem

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1)The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Starts off intriguing, then attempts to blow your mind, and finally nukes it. At some points the story arc holding it all together becomes very thin, but (as the book exemplifies) this kind of works in its favour keeping the pacing right. It’s also Chinese. Yes, that is obvious, but like translated Russian, translated Chinese also has a distinct rhythm and cadence to it, that might seem alien. Personally, I like this odd flavour, but combined with a thin arc part this might make certain conversations come across like they’ve been ripped from the pages of a comic.

Regardless, the stage is set! Can’t wait to start the next instalment!

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Goodreads review • Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts

Wabi-Sabi: Further ThoughtsWabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts by Leonard Koren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Further Thoughts” really covers its contents well. It’s not that the book is disappointing, but its collection of more examples and a extended look at the etymology of the term wabi-sabi, makes it less essential.

It helps flesh out the philosophy behind the concept and certainly adds some viewpoints, but it’s a bit of a course correction, rather than a completely new and essential waypoint. Goes without saying that you should refrain from reading this before its predecessor.

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Portfolio • VR Bootcamp

Floris and I are organising a VR Bootcamp in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The concept is rather simple: teach organisations and professionals the knowledge to make actual use of virtual reality, rather than ticking off the checkbox next to the letters V and R.

To facilitate promotional materials, I expanded upon the Imaging Mind branding I tweaked last year:

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There’s some perverse pleasure in giving the people at FreedomLab a proper place in all of this, especially as they were often trying out the headset for the first time. Looking forward to expanding the applications to the bootcamp’s materials!

Goodreads review • The Call of the Wild

The Call of the WildThe Call of the Wild by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there’s something like the umami of words, London has the recipe for it. Every sentence is fat and dripping with atmosphere, intent and passion. Even though the story is simple, even though you can guess what happens, even though London occasionally doesn’t even bother to let you guess and just tells you straight, it is utterly fulfilling. Joyous.

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A god as the alpha male

And so, once again, God readily emerges as the idealised harem-master. There is no need to distinguish between God-as-alpha-male and God-as-parent. Both considerations work in much the same way and point in the same direction. In psycho-speak, the outcome is ‘over-determined’.

Fascinating read in how the model for a god evolved from our primal tendencies to follow the alpha male.

◎ How monotheists modelled god on a harem-keeping alpha male

Goodreads review: The World of Ice & Fire

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of ThronesThe World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To view this book as The Silmarillion of ASOIAF is both right and wrong. It does tell of what happened before the Game of Thrones as we know it started, but it isn’t exhaustive. A lot of it is merely a collection of the known tales and history within the Seven Kingdoms. The work itself is the first to mention its incomplete nature and often mentions that we may never know the truth about various events.

That doesn’t hamper it in the slightest. The book is a wiki made readable and you’ll have plenty of surprises and puzzle pieces locking in place as you work through it. A lot of it could’ve been dry and useless, even in relation to the ASOIAF books (and to a lesser extent, the series), but it manages to entertain and fill in the gaps with vivid colours.

Fascinating and highly recommended while you wait for Martin himself to finish the Song.

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