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For a very long time, I've noticed ways in which other people treat stuff-random stuff- differently from the way I handle it. There's always some way to use things, I find myself thinking, and there's always some reason to hang on to a given object rather than pass it on, or throw it out.

The idea that I might actually have a problem... that's been very slow to occur to me. Fourteen years ago, I noticed that in my project to clear the floor, I got more anxious the more open floor was revealed. Seven years ago, I saw what my father's house looked like when he died, and it reminded me-powerfully- of my own.

Maybe a year and a half ago, I noticed a pet peeve that gave me a clue. Kitchen drawers were constantly catching on things because there was more shoved into the drawer than it could reasonably handle. Carefully optimizing the contents would work for a day or two, but then entropy would set in and again the drawer would catch again. With 4 unrelated adults sharing that kitchen, it was nearly impossible to get permission to cull the drawers, and even when I did, the cure would only seem to last a few months before it would fill up again.

...and a light bulb slowly began to glow above my head. Each drawer could really, practically, only store so much stuff. Yet it could still contain quite a bit more than that, if one wasn't fussy about *using* the drawer.

This description applied just as well to my room, my storage space, my calendar, and my hard drive. Every part of my life had been stuffed to the gills with items that were placeholders, space-fillers... but not actually fulfilling any immediate purpose.

It was about this same time I began hearing the stories of Midway island and its birds- filling their bellies with indigestible plastic that could never feed them, only slowly poison them by degrees.
Here my own storage spaces were stretched to bursting, yet they weren't actually helping me live any sort of full life.

These two most recent steps were nearly accidental. I'm using self storage now with an intensity I'd never imagined possible. And my room is slowly ...drying... out. That's the only way I can describe it, when I no longer have to wade through loose objects to get to unused corners of the room.

My girlfriend put it nicely: "That unused space isn't wasted, it's where you can keep your sanity".

The room is far from "dry"- there is still a layer of random objects covering most surfaces. But the density of the layer is steadily diminishing. And now that the contrast is visible between what was and what is becoming, I can clearly see I have a hoarding problem. I don't expect it to magically go away just because I can see it now. (Hell, there's still all these storage bills to focus on!) But this is the first time I've been able to imagine what my life might look like if it functioned the way a properly loaded drawer is supposed to function.
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I just heard myself say, " That's not the stupidest idea you've had all day. It's probably in the top six or so, though."

And then I was suddenly certain that if more people could have six bad ideas in a day, we'd all be better off.

Having a quick mind means ideas come fast and furious... and to get overly attached to any of them is dangerous.

Suddenly I think I understand the stubbornness of the slower-minded. Ideas *don't* come so fast to them, and so they're much more protective of the ones they do have.

In a strange sort of paradox, I think faster-minded people find ourselves at a curious disadvantage against slower folk. We're accustomed to having bad idea mixed in with the good ones, we're not so sure we can tell them apart, so we don't defend them as vigorously as our slower counterparts. They often win not because their ideas are any better, but they're just more stubborn about them. Quicker-minded people are also quicker to give up, to move on, to have more ideas somewhere else.

It's hard to imagine what it would take for the quicker minds to slow down, to go ahead and compete with the rest of them on the merits of the idea rather than the social order. I mean, after a long enough time goes by, there are no more marbles, and no place to take them.
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I've been thinking this thought so often, I can't remember if I've posted it already.

I've been taking an enormous amount of stress for the last three months. But it hasn't seemed like I have been taking any damage at all. (that's not actually true, I *have* taken some damage, but I'm so stressed, it's hard to tell.

When I try to visualize the difference, it's almost like a video game where there's a thermal bar on my weapon, and hit points on my armor. The gun can heat up to the point where it can't fire any more, but the hits I take are only indirectly related to my weapon health.

Yesterday I only spent six hours in the car, but they were the hours I should have been asleep in bed. I was very aware of that stress meter, and I had to take cover a lot in order to avoid taking damage.

In previous emergencies, I think I was treating stress and damage as if they were the same thing, so my defensive priorities weren't very good. I think I took a lot more damage than the situation really warranted.

It *almost* feels as if the firefight is ending, and I can look to repairing the damage I actually have taken. But my perceptions are stressed as well, so I'm going to need a fair amount of time where nothing is changing, before I can be confident that it's safe to relax.
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The relocation began in may, three months ago. It is not finished. Panic is constantly at the edge of my awareness.

This morning I finally decided that *any* sort of activity would be good for me, never mind how trivial. So I went through a box of papers, and threw away about half of the volume, quickly noticing what was in the keeper pile.

A long chain of relocations.... many many addresses from what I'd come to think of as former lives. It helped me remember what is different about this move in particular:

1) it wasn't my fault. the family blowup was not because of a bad decision on my part. it's prompted a fresh definition of sanity: the attempt to gracefully endure those wrong things which are not my fault, yet somehow are still my responsibility.

2) An unusually long stretch of stability. 5 years with one family is a long time for me. long enough so my mind doesn't immediately drop back to the state it was in before I moved in with them in the first place.

3) A piece of the family persists this time. I've inherited Ollie the 13 year old standard poodle. He's utterly dependent on me for his well being, and I'm (so far) not a very good dog owner. But I aspire to be. Meanwhile he struggles to adapt to my mistakes, just as I did with my mom.

4) The September epiphany hasn't gone away. I won't let it. A whole nother post about that one, but in a nutshell I discovered what mercy and/or grace feels like from the inside. Life wants to have a deeper meaning since then, and I have to stay alive long enough for it to realize that potential. So this relocation *matters*, because it frames the kind of person I am struggling to become.

5) Shame is like an invisible companion whispering bad ideas into my ear constantly. Like the supporting cast of _A Beautiful Mind_, I don't know how to make it go away, I only know how not to take its bad advice.

6) there is no rule 6. there is just a fuckton of tasks to accomplish, and here I am nattering into my computer. Hopefully there will be a moment when this move can be said to be over, and I will have something really wise and clever to say about it then. Till then, I'm not just responsible for my life, I'm responsible for Ollie's as well.
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Playing wargames, thinking about peace. Watching Game of Thrones, thinking about War of the Roses. And asking really boneheaded questions about why constant warfare seems preferable to a robust peace.

Something comes to mind that's so simple, there has to be more to it than this. It's related to why the battlefield is always divided into two sides, never three or more. (life and death are binary states, by the time you've given yourselves permission to kill, then the whole world is only enemies and allies. There's no room for more than two sides.)

So the reason that war seems preferable to peace, is that peace is complicated and uncertain. Despite what the flower people preach, it's not straightforward at all. You have to model your opponent's needs and wants, and gauge that against their power to do mischief or help. And if they're not honest or competent, this becomes a guessing game. And for peace to work, they are doing the same for you. Repeat for as many different factions as exist on the playing field.

Humanity can't do peace because collectively we're not smart enough for it.

-which isn't to say it's not worth pursuing, but just that there's a compelling reason to try to get smarter.

{and questions of population control, environmental stewardship, taking care of an entire planet, we'd need to be smarter for that as well, too. Figuring out problems of peace just serve to expand the human attention span so we can look as bigger solutions. Otherwise, your best plan to fix global warming is trumped by some barbarian one country over who advocates a more short term solution, and you have to fight them before you can fix the atmosphere.)

Re: love

Apr. 24th, 2013 08:51 am
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I'm idly scratching my dog's ears, and it occurs to me to wonder- why are animals and children so much easier to love than adults?

Some of it is chemicals and brain wiring, I know. Neoteny signals the oldest part of our brains to protect thems that have it.

But I think it's also language: as in, my dog will rarely refuse me. Children, too, are not in a good position to compete with an adult agenda.

Contrast this with what I know of my peers. We're ADD, We're aspie, we're highly mental and really crunchy, and often not fun to party with. I suppose one could conclude that there's a whole subset of the human population that's just hard to love, and I'm in that. But I don't see things playing out any better in the slower, dumber, warmer part of the gene pool.

My idea right now is that it has to do with language. What makes my dog more lovable than most people I know, is that he doesn't have enough language to confuse me. By implication, it's easier to feel affection for subordinates than it is to feel for superiors.

And that's sort of the DNA for all of human history, isn't it? Rather than directly appreciate the people on our shoulders, the ones with the better view of the world, we are invited to cathect with the greater good, with the high school mascot or the national ideology, or, God forbid, our religious peers!

And for those who dwell below us on the pecking order, we're encouraged to show charity, restraint, chivalry almost.

The big idea here, is that warfare (human struggle) does not come from competition for resources. We access resources much better when we cooperate. Maybe warfare really stems from identity issues. Chattel doesn't challenge our sense of self the way trade partners do.

My utopian fantasy, in that big dumb happy poly bonobo cuddle pile sense, is that somewhere in the state-space, is a language we could adopt, where we look like puppies to each other.

[Of course, there would also be times when competition is necessary, and we'd need to have difficult negotiations, and the language would have to change. (sure, I can imagine a temptation to cheat under those circumstances, and pretend to be a puppy just to gain access to the other dog's throat. My hunch is that these moments can be minimized the same way you minimize cheating everyplace else- make it more advantageous to follow the rules than to break them.)]

I guess this is hardly a new idea, really. Lots of people I know think of themselves as part of a larger peace movement. Some of the time, the toolbox of language is the focus. More often than that, though, is more of the same, "let's declare war on War and those who practice it". My crunchy aspie fascination with military history is typically not welcome in such groups.

In short, I don't much look like a puppy to this subset, nor do I much feel like cuddling them.

I guess it's back to the drawing board...
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I've been quoting and pointing people to these videos for a long time now. I keep losing the links, and having to go back and re-locate the URLs. so here's one-stop shopping to some realy important stuff:

The third video has a text transcript/liveblog link after it, because I haven't spent the 82 minutes to watch the whole thing.

The second video is awfully long as well, I'm finding certain times to jump in on his speech. 46:40 is another good one, to dispell the myth that capitalism is so freaking efficient.
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If my possesions are a map of my mind, what does reading that map tell me?

Lately it's been all too obvious that I have a lack of direction. I flit from one project to the next, jumping from one shiny idea to another, without getting very far on any of them. Sometimes there's a pause point where I can declare a sort of victory, mostly it's a mud pie mess of half-finished prototype that's not really useful for anything, except maybe to ask the question, "what was I thinking?"

I've been trying to take pictures of some of the more illutrative projects before they go away, but so many of them are just notes scribbled on lego or erector or perfboard.

Nonetheless, each time another piece of flotsom goes away, i feel lighter. I have several more months of this to go- every day, lightening the load. By the time I move, I should have a much clearer idea of what projects still hold my intrest, and what they mean to me.
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This is just a story fragment- I want to get it down before I forget-

Interplanetary distances make for long negotiations. You make an offer, receive a counteroffer, and then have to reject the counter and make a new one: at lightspeed, this could get really long and drawn out.

Maybe you're negotiating last-minute payload inclusions for a resupply launch. Or there's a solar flare about to erupt and little time to dicker. Whatever the case, it becomes worthwhile to encode your second-best offer along with the top level stuff. This could get complicated very fast. But you don't want the message recipient to look at your last best offer until they've responded to the opening bid.

So I'm imagining a satellite orbiting earth that has the diplomatic status of an embassy. It doesn't even have to have humans aboard. It's main job is to de-encrypt messages coming from the distant planet (say, a Jovian moon, or mars) and squirt responses in real-time to earth's surface.

If Earth were really paranoid, it could also keep a similar satellite in orbit around the other planet. It's sole purpose would be to see if what reaches the martian surface is what was intended. The lightspeed lag would still apply here.

The rule would have to be- inbound transmission from orbit to surface are in the clear. If the destination planet is trying to decrypt the whole enchilada, the deal goes south.

Thinking it through a little more clearly, the moon seems like a better place for this embassy. Mars wants to beam things to its asset that it doesn't want seen on earth. And there are frequencies that can be received on the lunar surface that can't be picked up through earth's atmosphere.

There are probably ways of cheating that I haven't anticipated. And I wish I grokked RSA encryption better than I do. But at first glance, this seems workable.
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I'd love to see the american make movement find something useful to do. Learning for its own sake can't be argued with, but how many flashy LED toys can we create, before it's the modern version of needlepoint samplers?

I'd love it if nerds had their own superbowl. Kind of like the Arcata Kinetic races, except with smaller goals, and a more diverse field of entries. Maybe a cross between a county fair where you show chickens, and a science fair where you present a poster.

And somewhere in all that judging, I'd love to see an award for the highest return on investment. A prely subjective catagory, but it could really highlight some of the simple little hacks that people create to make life better for themselves.

Ultimately, a first world version of the Global Village Construction Set would focus more on medicine and shelter, less on power and construction.
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I've recently come into the possession of this metal lathe:

And it represents a substantial bite. The make movement has energized me in many ways, I feel empowered with electronics and papercraft and sewing and software- all disciplines that are easily transmitted through the tubes and the mail. But nothing about this beast lends itself to easy sharing.

Shop classes that would show me how to safely use this, generally require enrollment in a degree program. The South Seattle Community College has closed its metal shop. Lake Washington Voc Tech seems to only want to teach me about welding.

I may just start advertising to hire a tutor who could show me how to work this. Even mounting it on a secure level platform is going to be a challenge!

Feel free to ooh and ahh and heckle me about my poor judgement.
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I can see this making sense if one is cathected with capitalism more than with nature.

If the wild world is what you cathect with, then this notion of pricing everything seems downright perverse.
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If the media were a mirror, reflecting back an image of humanity, it's not a pretty picture right now. Aaron Schwartz's suicide hurts more than I would have imagined. The Newtown massacre somehow caught our attention in ways that Columbine and Aurora did not.(plus it has spawned its own secondary wave of shootings). The AIG lawsuit has me thinking about economic violence, and just how crazy people can act in a group. Zero Dark Thirty is getting rave reviews, and it disgusts me greatly.

On the personal side, my health is nagging at my attention in ways I could not have imagined a decade ago. The group of people I've come to think of as 'family' has gotten downgraded to 'housemates'. And my emotional state is shifting in a way that's hard to understand. It brings to mind an iceberg rolling over after enough of it has melted, or a pond rolling over as the density of the water shifts.

And right now the hottest topic on my mind is violence and nonviolence. I actually don't like the term 'nonviolence', it seems to point to a stable state space in which no violence is occurring at all. It's as weird an idea as 'absolute zero' in thermodynamics, or unconditional love. (Believe me, no matter how much I love you, there is always something you could possibly do to me that would make me stop. Ask me how I know this. Or maybe don't.)

But as a direction, as an aspiration, I think nonviolence is pretty fucking deep. Let's just call it lessviolence for now, as in harm reduction. And I don't think it matters if you are a gun enthusiast, or in the armed services or working at a meat packing plant, there is always a way to be less violent in one's actions... and a very real payoff for that strategy.

Huh. Strategy is easy. it's tactics that are hard. And when someone is in my face, screaming their hatred, strategy is not on my mind. When I am that distracted, I'm not even in a position to choose how mature I can be, it's the moment I find out how mature I am capable of being.

So let's write that one down, at least: the opposite of violence is not nonviolence, nor is it love. The opposite of violence is maturity.

Ghandi and King had some very specific historical problems to solve. I don't think there was anything specific to those problems that made nonviolence the correct approach- they just realized early on that these were problems for which there was no quick fix. I'm with Yoda when he says that the dark side is always in a hurry.

So when someone's screaming their hatred into my face, I'm either going to judge them less mature than I am, or I'm going to take them at face value and start screaming right back at them. And If I judge them less mature, it's a challenge to myself, a throwing down the glove to see if I can actually *be* as mature as I think I am.

I don't think I can resolve to be any less violent than i already know how to be, not right now anyway. But I can resolve to be more mature.
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I have a female friend who's got a classically pretty face. High cheekbones, small mouth, big eyes, large forehead: and sometimes I can make myself stop seeing her as the sum of her features, and notice each element of her face and figure that make her attractive.

Did I mention she's female? If I need to work a little to see past her physical appearance, then I have to wonder what it's like to be seen in the world. Sure, being pretty has its advantages, and from my perspective - as someone who is either oblivious to my own charm, or somewhat ugly- the advantages outweigh the disadvantage. Like being tall has more benefits than liabilities.

What I'm trying to get at here, is that 'good looking' is a construct, it's a judgment and a conclusion that come so naturally, it takes effort to deconstruct it and ask questions about it.

I think my biggest problem around pretty girls is that it intimidates me, and I look for the threat. Pretty girls bullied me in Jr High and I expect them to now. But that's some feminism that I can do right here in the privacy of my own mind.


Last night I found myself wondering what it must feel like to be ordinary- in my way of thinking. Most of the time, having a mind that thinks fast is a wonderful advantage. In the time I've spent I've seen and read a lot of things and I can remember quite a bit of it. In the privacy of my own mind, I feel quite content with the way my mind works.

But like having a pretty face or figure, a quick mind is not always an advantage.Most of the time, it's like being tall: the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. But there are exceptions that seem important.

(and here's where my tact runs out.Someone whose mind runs at a normal speed, I expect to have little sympathy for my problems. They may be as suspicious of me, as I am of pretty girls.)

Having a quick mind makes me susceptible to paranoia. On a good day I can get a reality check before it gets out of hand- only to notice once again what too many clock cycles can do to me. Overthinking other people's motivations, gives me room to find malice where there is none, invent secrets that don't exist.

Thinking too fast plays havoc with my moods: Out of sync with the rest of the world, I don't often feel the way the people around me feel. I imagine that ordinary people have a connection with humanity that I lack, and though they may process more slowly, they process things in parallel in a way that's alien to me.

(fashion, politics, the moods of the crowd. It probably *works* for an ordinary person to fly by the seat of the pants, trust intuition, and hope for the best.) The world is engineered for people of an IQ of 100, so trying to use such a world sometimes puts me at a disadvantage that's hard to talk about: like the way lefties are supposed to have a higher accident rate than right-handed people.

Sometimes in traffic, I want to change lanes but the other lane is moving too much faster than my own. There's nowhere for me to find a slot to move into. Now imagine that was reversed, and you were moving too *fast* to find a slot. It's a lot harder to slow down one's mind than one's car.

I think having a quick mind makes it harder to settle on what to think about. My train of thought doesn't so much derail, as fail to observe the tracks at all. Yet I get so much satisfaction from my imagination, that real life accomplishments on the ground can't measure up. Maybe it's harder to be happy while smart, and maybe I'm just not very good at it. In any case, it seems elusive.


I didn't earn my smarts any more than my friend earned her good looks. Sure, she can choose to pay attention to enhancing her assets, the way I could choose to get my thinking approved by a school. The analogy breaks down a bit here, though, because school is to free-thought, what makeup is to a tattoo.

It may feel like playing Berthold to Baron Munchausen- (he's the fast guy who's weighted down with a ball and chain) but I think it would behoove me to spend more time imagining the ordinary.

And all these other people around me that also struggle from too many clock cycles under the hood, I don't see them doing much better than I am for the most part. In a lot of ways, they're less fun to be around than slower thinkers, since they're often as socially clumsy as I am.

Thus the distinction between mere cleverness and actual wisdom. If I were wise, rather than clever, I could use my smarts to work the problem and become happier. Being clever gives me pleasure, but it doesn't make me happy.
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There isn't much room in our freezer right now. Nothing specific or special is hogging up that space, there needs to be a cleaning and I don't want to do it.

But the berries keep coming in. T picks them while waiting for the bus, while N likes to go to the college and pick a spot there. A *lot* of fruit has been coming in, and I've been trying to process it all quickly.

None of us can find all the parts to the ice cream makers that used to be around. And I remember all that being such a hassle. So most of the fruit has become blackberry sorbet, flash frozen with dry ice.

Last night we made another batch, this time with de-seeded berries so that everyone could have some. Messy, but fun! I was careful to do a better job crushing the dry ice first, it looks like coarse ground salt when it shatters. I keep thinking of martian snow when I see it. (Eventually humans will send a probe that's robust enough to survive a martian snowstorm, and we'll get video of what CO2 looks like as a blizzard).

After all the juice had been stirred into sorbet, there was still quite a bit left over. We started freezing liquids at random, so now there's a wine slushee in the freezer, and some vanilla chai soy ice cream. All of it tingles a little on the tongue from the fizzy bubbles.

Even then there was more dry ice left over, so I amused the kids by putting some in their water glasses and letting them play mad scientist. And the last chunks I dropped into the toilet, making it look like a monster had last shat there.

I'm amazed how cheap this dry ice is. Back when it came as a byproduct of amazon fresh, there was never an audience around to add the the drama. Being able to choose the time of the fog makes a huge difference.

Oh, and Sunday nights look like they are going to become family time. I'm very happy about that.


Aug. 5th, 2012 11:27 pm
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I went to the Being Museum of flight to watch the feed from JPL. The place was packed! As many people crowded the lobby as were in the theater. As the landing sequence ticked off, each succesful benchmark brought more excited applause. And then finally it was down safe. Curiosity seems healthy, a nominal landing, nothing abnormal at all.

My only qubble was the health conscious substitution of roast salted peunuts instead of the M&M candies that JPL has traditionally celebrated with. In classic newspeak style, this is supposedly a tradition that had always been done with peanuts. As if a simple factual thing like that couln't be checked on. Ugh! I love some of the things my country does, even as I loath the ways in which they are done.
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What I learned from the cacophony society and again at burning man, is that being weird in style takes a surprising amount of focus and effort. So learning to cull a project before it becomes an albatross is a skill that can conserve a lot of energy and avoid mess.

But now that the maker movement is picking up steam, it's hard not to want to participate. Every new flashy web headline is another invitation to a larger conversation.

So that's got me thinking that every successfully completed project is like a sentence with a period at the end. And the nightmare garage full of unordered building materials and half finished projects, those are run on sentences with too many commas, that don't really fit into any sort of paragraph.

Back when I was learning to talk and then to write and then to post- It took a while to learn the discipline to not say whatever popped into my head. Same with this project thing: If I can head off more projects before they take up space in the real world, I'll have more room for when i really do have something to say.

It's tempting to rush out and buy an inventor's notebook now, but that smells like another project. Perhaps I'll just try to better organize the computer record of projects I have already finished.

Oh, and bragging rights. I have to get more satisfaction from the things I've finished, so that the feeling lasts longer and I'm not just cooking up another fix right away.
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I couldn't help it, this is where my mind went

28 Weeks Later - Don abandons Alice vs. The Beatles - A Hard Days Night FULL VIDEO HQ by VJ anansi133
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Superficially, the Bioshock games both seem to resemble a bunch of the Alien rip offs. You're in a dark airtight space fighting off zombies and genetic monstrosities, and messing with your own genes not unlike how Ripley does it in the 4th film.

Finishing the second game right after seeing Prometheus, I'm struck by how much more satisfying and better written was the videogame. Ridley Scott supposedly is asking where humanity's roots come from- but the answer to his question isn't very interesting. In Bioshock, it's a question about the nature of free will and the meaning of Utopia: probably would seem pretty hokey if the setting wasn't so horrific.

I only bought Bioshock 2 a week ago. This has got to be a new record for me in completing a new game.


Jun. 17th, 2012 11:01 pm
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In self defense, I took myself to see it today. There just too many spoilers floating around in plain view for me to wait any longer. i figured even if I hated it, I'd hate it less if there was some sort of surprise as I watched it.

It is better than most of the Alien movies. And the ones it's *not* better than, it's different from. So, yeah.

But I finally decided i don't like the film for the same reason I ended up not liking Battlestar Galactica reeboot, and the prequel series after it. There is a deeply cynical view of human nature at work here, propping up plotlines that only make sense if you think humans suck.

Since I don't think humans suck, I'd rather believe stories like this one sucks. But go see for yourself. it's definitely worth a matinee price, and even worth a full price evening show if you've got a couple hours to talk about it afterwards with friends. -not something you could have said about any of the other Alien movies!

and when you've finally seen it, check out this guy's take;

And most especially this person's video:
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