Muh Switch! or “Pandemic ‘Profiteering’ and ‘Price-Gouging'”

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – these are strange and difficult times. With the pandemic raging and quarantine protocols widely in effect, there’s been discovery and revelation. It turns out that although cheap stuff is good, having large swaths of your supply chain based in an authoritarian, petri dish of a country isn’t so much.

But I’m not going to rag on Communism right now. Instead I just wanted to share my frustration and concern with what I’ve seen here in the good old US of A. I already ranted about this on Twitter, so I’ll try not to retread too much.

I understand the anxiety of people who can’t find toilet paper at their local grocery store, then pop onto Amazon or eBay and are horrified to see something like this:

tp

“Price gouging!” they exclaim as they mash the “report seller” link.

We live in relatively soft, cushy times here. Now I’m not saying I’d like to wipe my butt with leaves and grass or the pages of old Daniel Steele books, but if I had to I could. And yet, toilet paper is considered an essential good. Ok, fine. It is what it is. There are no real comparable alternatives to toilet paper on the market (unless you count those flushable moist wipes, maybe?).

Hopefully someone’s working on those three seashells.

seashells

But you know what’s not an essential? A Nintendo Switch. Your favorite brand of pasta sauce. The complete series DVD set of Lost. Dumbbells.

And yet…

switch

To be fair, I think most news outlets I’ve read have been pretty straight about what “price-gouging” actually is. It’s the unfair price inflation of “essential goods and services.”

Part of the problem here is that words are hard. Especially subjective words like “essential.” It doesn’t help when the government gets to decide what “essential” means.

You really start to see the confusion and outrage on social media and in places like Facebook buying/selling groups. I can kinda get it – a mom or dad who’s confined at home thinks “It is essential for me to be able to entertain my kids who have been trapped at home for weeks and who I am stuck with 24-7 since I am now working from home. It’s bullshit that the video game system they want is selling for 2x the retail price!”

And I get it. It sucks. I really want to buy a Ring Fit Adventure, which was originally retailing for $80. But it’s been sold out everywhere for a while now, unless you want to pay up on Amazon or eBay and fork over $300.

Me, personally, I think “Gee, that sucks. Wish I had got one when they were available for cheaper. Guess I’ll wait and see if supply ever catches up with demand.”

But a disheartening amount of people seem to be thinking “This should be illegal. This must be illegal! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

Here’s the thing about reselling and resellers – while there are some unscrupulous folk and some shady ways of going about their business, by and large they perform a valuable service. You may not want to pay $500 for a Switch, but someone does and they are willing and able to pay. They may not want to leave their house, or maybe they live in a small town with few places to buy video games and consoles. And if you have $500, you at least have the opportunity to buy one online, too.

And how much money is that scummy price gouger making? He’s charging $500! He’s making hundreds off of poor parents!

Well…about that. Let’s assume the sellers is some dude who went to Target or GameStop when there were Switches to be had, and bought up 10 consoles.

First off, the guy just dropped $3,000 + sales tax. So assuming a 6% sales tax, let’s say he just spent $3,180 on 10 Switches.  So there’s the initial capital that he had to save and plunk down.

Let’s say he is able to sell a Switch for $500 on eBay. $500 – $318 = $182. He’s also going to be paying eBay a 10% fee and Paypal a 3% fee. So now we’re at $500 – $318 – $50 – $15 = $117. And that’s not even accounting for shipping, which will knock off a few more bucks.

By charging $500, a reseller is making a profit of about $117 by selling a Switch on eBay. Amazon charges higher fees, so it would be less than that if they sold through Amazon. Selling all 10, he’s looking at about $1170 profit, then.

That’s not too shabby, and it’s a flip I would make. And yet, the guy’s not making a killing. A big part of the equation here is that most buyers don’t think about (or care about) the cost to the seller.

EBay and Amazon could help alleviate the situation somewhat by temporarily reducing seller fees, allowing some savings to be passed onto the end customers. But they don’t.

There’s also the risk involved. Buyers are rightly concerned about shady online sellers trying to scam them out of their cash. But it works both ways. There are buyers out there who will claim an item was received damaged or defective or that the box was empty, and the platforms tend to side with the customers in such disputes. Thankfully cases like these aren’t terribly common, but they do happen. Especially with high-value items like electronics. That’s a risk that a seller has to bear. They get scammed out of one Switch and all of a sudden they’re down $300 – almost 1/3 of the total profit they were expecting out of this batch.

Some people seem to think it’s unfair for them to pay above retail, or at least much above retail. So how much is okay? $350 for a Switch? Then the reseller would be making $350 – $318 – $35 – $10.50 = $4.50. Ah yes, solid work for $4 (let’s pretend USPS will mail that package for free).

But wait, if not for the resellers, I’d be able to get a Switch at Walmart! Possibly, but probably not. Sure, there were resellers who were able to drive around and snatch a bunch up. But right now demand for Switches is sky-high. This is not an artificially inflated demand. Nintendo just hasn’t been able to make enough.

If no one were willing to pay $500 for a Switch, prices would start to come down. Rather than sit and wait, some (re)sellers would gradually lower prices until they found a price point at which buyers would buy. And other sellers would follow suit……..

switches

The point I’m trying to make is that there are a lot of people out there right now who support capitalism on paper, but not when push comes to shove. I think they don’t understand or care what “essential” means when it comes to price-gouging, they don’t know or care what “fair” means when it comes to either price-gouging or profiteering, and/or they don’t understand the basic economics of supply and demand.

 

 

 

 

Law vs Chaos

  • by Gitabushi

When I started playing Dungeons & Dragons, the full Alignment Chart was the norm. Good vs Evil, Law vs Chaos.  Lawful Good was a straitlaced Bible Thumper (even though “Christian” wasn’t really a concept in the game), Chaotic Good was Robin Hood, Chaotic Evil was a serial killer, and Lawful Evil was Fascism.

Law = Order, and Chaos = Randomness, in the way our group understood it.

I always gravitated toward Chaotic Good. Ever since reading the Hardy Boys, I felt I identified with Joe, maybe because I was blonde as a kid, and he was impetuous, so impetuous seemed good to me, and impetuous is Chaotic.  But, of course, I wanted to be a good person and do good things.

One of the fun moments was a flame war in the D&D community over Tarl Calbot’s alignment: when he turned complete selfish and amoral, was he Chaotic Evil, or True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, or even Neutral Good.  Without the internet, the arguments raged in the letters section across a half-dozen Dragon magazines.  Good times, good times.

I guess I didn’t learn anything from that, but with a few more decades added to my life total, I now feel like “Neutral” is a dodge. Anything except for the most extreme stance could be seen as “neutral”.  And who decides what “balance” between the two is?  One of the compelling arguments about Cabot was, if I recall correctly, “If you really don’t care whether you do good or evil, aren’t you really just evil?”

While I was heavily into D&D, I read the Chronicles of Amber. This series was probably the first (and maybe only) book/series I’ve read that talked about universe-scale battles of Law vs Chaos that left an impression on me.

Before I continue, let me link some other mentions of Law vs Chaos you should consider checking out before continuing, because there’s a chance I might vaguely reference some of the things mentioned in these posts. And if don’t, they are still good posts, and I get paid by the word, so I might as well pad this out:

More Amber

Appendix N Review

Three Thoughts on Three Hearts and Three Lions

Broken Sword

Mumble Mumble and Chaos

Jeffro on 3H3L

One thing I got from Amber, and seems to be a theme in any book that talks about Law vs Chaos, is that Law is generally Good, and Chaos is generally bad.  Law is order, predictability, security. Chaos is destruction, unexpectedness, insecurity.  The takeaway from Amber is that they have been battling against Chaos taking over, but maybe Chaos isn’t all bad; without Chaos, there would be no growth, no change…everything would calcify and become static.  Jeffro points out that “Chaos is not always synonymous with Evil”, and that’s about the best anyone says about it.

Okay, that was all build up. Because, as at least a few people expect, I’m here to say that Chaos is actually closer to good, and we should be saying that “Law is not always synonymous with evil.”

Part of it might be where you draw the line, where you see the neutral point, what you think moderation is.

But here’s what I think the key is: everyone is looking at it on a Macro level: the Universe. Forces. Everyone is one One Side or the Other.

That is a Law perspective.

Law is collective.  Law is Authoritative. Law is an imposition of Universality.

From the Law perspective, you are either with us or against us. You will do what we tell you, or you’ll do what someone else tells you.

But what is the greatest original gift God gave to us? Yes, salvation via the Gift of His Son was the greatest gift ever, but I’m talking the original gift, the one that made the greater gift necessary.

Free Will. Agency. The ability to choose.  This is what we have in common with God.

One of the problems with discussing Law vs Chaos, or even Good vs Evil, is when they are discussed in Manichean terms, as if they were opposite poles, with a midpoint that is neutral between them.

But as CS Lewis persuasively explains, Evil is not the opposite of Good, it is the absence of Good, like Dark is the absence of Light, or Cold is the absence of Heat.  When the light is dim, you don’t say, well, there’s 10% light and 90% darkness.  When you turn up the illumination, the darkness doesn’t resist. Where there is light, there is no darkness.

So you can’t really mix Law and Chaos.  You can’t really moderate Law and Chaos.  You can’t really find a balance point between Law and Chaos.

What you can do, perhaps, is see how they are two sides of the same coin.

We have the Wisdom of Crowds, where the average opinion of thousands of individuals is usually more correct than the most informed expert.  I am still somewhat stunned regarding the old McDonald’s model: they knew that they could draw a circle, and if there were enough of the right type of family demographics within that circle, the McDonald’s would be successful. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a McDonald’s shut down (although I’m sure some have, if the area demographics changed too much). And they knew that once those demographics were met, they could pre-make burgers and fries and hold them for no more than 10 minutes, and still have to throw out minimal food, because they knew when people would be coming in to eat, and pretty much what they would order, to within +/- some incredibly low percentage.

On the other hand, we have Leftist Totalitarianism, where people seek power to impose authoritarian rules on others, and once doing so, the shortages and measures taken to maintain the social order make it impossible to figure out what the next shortage will be, or when the Secret Police will come for you or your family.

Putting this into a political context, you could say, “Who wouldn’t want Law & Order and reject Chaos and Anarchy?”

But I prefer to see it as, “Who wouldn’t want Agency? Who wouldn’t want individual rights?  Who would want your options restricted to only the few approved ones allowed?”

To me, that’s the Law side of Law vs Chaos: you lose agency. You lose self-government. You lose options.

For freedom to mean anything, you need the freedom to fail, the freedom to make some wrong choices.

Since thinking of this, when I hear Law vs Chaos, I hear Collective vs Individual, Totalitarian vs Libertarian.

So instead of trying to moderate this on a macro level, as in, let’s have some laws and some freedom, and maybe they’ll balance out, I would prefer to find the balance on a micro level: I have agency and the liberty to do what I want, so I will self-govern and choose to exist in harmony with others who also self-govern.

Of course, that will be insufficient. People don’t always understand their own abilities and limits, and they often don’t have the empathy to see how their actions negatively impact others. Plus, on a micro level, people often try to impose order on their children, their subordinates, or people they feel have lower status than them (Law rears its ugly head!). So we do need government to to resolve those mistakes, misunderstandings, and issues.

However, we should see government as a necessary failure, a safety net that helps mitigate the failures of Chaos on an individual level.

Maybe that’s neutral, maybe that’s moderation.  One of the eternal problems on questions like these is “Where do you draw the line?”, but that’s a topic for another day.

The point today is merely to get you considering the notion that perhaps Chaos is more synonymous with Good than Law is.  I’m sure I’ve convinced no one.  Hopefully, I’ve made you think.

 

Another Argument for Hard SF

  • by Gitabushi

I just finished reading “The Martian”, by Andy Weir.

martian.jpg

Great book.  GREAT book.  Must read. Go buy it or check it out from the library.

FWIW, the book adds some depth and explanations to what you see in the movie.  One big change that actually makes the book more scientific than the movie (thank goodness).

And this is the point.

In a story, you have to have conflict and obstacles. If the story is just “Hero wants treasure, and finds it. The End” no one is going to enjoy it. So you add in an obstacle, like a monster.

“Hero wants treasure, finds it, but has to kill a monster to get it. He kills the monster easily. The End” is not much better.

A good story has lots of obstacles that the hero must overcome in a believable manner.  If overcoming the problems is too easy, the protagonist is a boring Marty Stu/Mary Sue.

To make a good story, the protagonist has to struggle, and has to learn something.

This is one of the weaknesses of game-based stories: “You can almost hear the dice rolling.”  The main characters have battles, but it’s just swing and miss until the bad guys collapse.

One of the biggest challenges to writing is creating obstacles that seem realistic to the readers, that aren’t overcome too easily, and that don’t make trivial tasks seem difficult just to add drama.

In science fiction and fantasy, you are introducing concepts that break the rules of current reality. That makes it even more difficult to create a coherent, believable system of obstacles.

“The Martian” is so good *because* the author researched everything, did all the math, and ensured that every obstacle and every solution were as close to real-life as possible.

This is probably why it got a movie treatment, as well.

It’s Science Fiction, but only barely.  It’s the hardest of hard science fiction, but without getting too caught up in numbers, or the author showing off how much he knows.

Everything that happens to Mark is realistic, and every solution he comes up with is realistic, as well.  That adds to the greatness of the story.

Now, that doesn’t mean every story should be hard science fiction. Not at all.  It just means that if you avoid hard science fiction to avoid sticky problems of math, you create a different set of problems for yourself.

There is no good or bad choice in this.  But awareness by the author of what your goal is, and what is needed from you to reach the goal, is key.

I’m now reading “Artemis” by the same author.
 
Good book so far. Hard SF, again. And the better for it.

I am sowing

Sheesh – soon I’m going to have to rename this place the Gita Bushi blog.

Just wanted to pop in to throw up another “I live!” post. The fact is, I don’t have much time for myself these days…which means I don’t have much time or material to share here or at Bushi SFF.

I’m still paranoid about being outed and flogged for my impolitic opinions and beliefs and trolleries, so there’s not a ton I can reveal right now, except to say that after my pickle empire necessarily crumbled to ruins, I started up another small business. It’s been a lot of hard work, and being an entrepreneur in addition to being a husband, father, and working a full time job leaves little time for amusements.

But we’re building a foundation, and I hope the venture will grow into a family business over time. We’ve been at it since about February/March, and have a few thousand buckaroos that we didn’t have before.

My guilty pleasure these days is a little Dota Underlords in the fragmented moments between toil and dream and…toilet. I’ll end on that TMI note.

-Bushi

bushi

Arcade/MAME Project, Pt IV

 

  • by Gitabushi

Previous installments here: Start (Pt 1), Update I (Part II), Part III

I ended up buying a few pre-made cards that included a crapton of roms off of eBay.

The first one had 18,000 games installed. You aren’t supposed to buy these, because while some games are abandonware or otherwise public domain, a bunch of them aren’t.  They are bootlegged, hacked, copied, or otherwise not legal copies.

Retropie insists you do not purchase pre-imaged cards.  The software is available for download for free.  There is no reason to buy a pre-imaged card.  Unless you want the games that are, at best, a gray area to own.

So I don’t recommend doing it.

My goal was to just to have something to play, while waiting for my own downloaded free RetroPie image to get tweaked up, and then I’d transfer the roms, or just use the roms I already have.

Except nothing worked.

I couldn’t extract the roms from the purchased card. I couldn’t keep the WiFi hooked up. I could connect a bluetooth keyboard, but a conflict with a pre-installed PS3 bluetooth controller messed up the stack so the keyboard was unusable.  Learning to configure the controller was a pain. Configuring a second controller inevitably resulted in glitches making the 2nd controller useless. When an emulator didn’t work and I tried a second suggested emulator, the system prevented me from changing it back or trying another.  I couldn’t seem to add Mame4All as an alternative emulator option. Even adding the roms to my self-imaged card didn’t work.

And only about 1/3 of the games i wanted to play worked.

So I went back to eBay and put in a lowball offer on a card that promised *curated* games. But the offer was so low, I figured it would get rejected and so put in another lowball offer on another.

Then they both got accepted.

The first card was 18k games on a 128gb card. The 2nd was 14k on a 32gb card, and the 3rd (hasn’t arrived yet) is 22k on a 64gb card.

The 2nd card arrived yesterday. And it has a RecalBox program rather than RetroPie. I didn’t immediately realize there was much of a difference, because the appearances were similar. I had a little difficulty getting the controller configuration menu opened and navigated…the controller had a default button configuration, and once I figured that out, it configured easily and I was able to intuitively add favorites, tweak the system (reducing the default overclocking), and try out some games. Every game I tried, worked.

This morning, I looked into what the difference is between RetroPie and RecalBox.

The question “What’s better?” isn’t really answerable, because the answer is “it depends on your skill level and what you want.”  But if you just want to know the difference, the expert in the video says that RetroPie gives you more control over all the details, but RecalBox is easier to set up and use for newbies.

That certainly was my experience.

The 3rd card arrives on Friday.  It is a RetroPie image, but it claims that all the games are curated (checked to be sure they work), so we’ll see if it is as frustrating.

But at this point, I’d recommend downloading RecalBox (also free) to set up your retro arcade player on a Raspberry Pi.  And then acquiring games by whatever method you feel is appropriate.
Next up: I finally figured out what I want out of/from/in a controller.  The standard setup isn’t it.

If I were a POTUS Candidate

  • by Gitabushi

Here are a few of the planks of my platform:

Socialism requires 100% participation to work. If anyone is exempt, there is no equality, and someone is exploiting the system. However, the basic nature of humanity is to disagree. Different values, different goals, and different experiences result in a wide variety of opinions on any topic, and on all topics.  In fact, some people will disagree with the majority just to assert their individuality.  Therefore, there will never be 100% support for Socialism. Which means that enacting Socialism can only be done by force.  As such, Socialism is antithetical to the principles, norms, standards, institutions, and traditions of the United States. I will work with the finest minds in the nation to find ways for you to attain the sense of security you falsely think Socialism provides.

Socialism is a poison pill in a candy shell. Unnecessary and untimely death accompanies its ascendance into any government.

Capitalism, for all its flaws, harnesses the power of selfishness to improve everyone’s lives. The free market cannot sidestep the laws of physics and supply/demand, but the combination of Capitalism and Free Markets have lifted more people from poverty than any other system, by several orders of magnitude.

Free Market Capitalism offers you choices.  You may not like the choices. The choices you want might not be currently available to you. But with Free Market Capitalism, you always have choices for the mix of effort, comfort and risk you feel comfortable with.

Free Market Capitalism’s biggest failures occur when someone manipulates information to deceive. Failures also occur when the government picks winners and losers.

I will work with the finest minds in the nation to use government power only to ensure you have the most accurate information possible, and not make decisions for you.

Abortion is a tragic and unnecessary act that results in the death of a unique human being.  Nevertheless, a vocal minority in the United States considers it a vital right, and the US political system is designed to protect minority rights. I will work with the finest minds in the United States and abroad to create a society in which no one feels abortion is necessary ever again. Until that day arrives, I will work to limit abortion to comport with reasonable standards of responsibility and accountability.

Taxes are an unfortunate necessity.  However, centuries of history demonstrate that rather than raising taxes to provide services, governments provide services as a pretext to raise taxes. It is a simple fact that government wastes money. Merely paying the salaries of bureaucrats lowers the value of tax revenue spent in services, and most of the services provided by government would be better accomplished if the money had not been taxed in the first place, and for expenses individuals cannot afford, via charity.  I will work with the finest minds in the United States to cut spending to create surpluses that pay off our debt, and then can lower taxes.  My eventual goal is the elimination of all income taxes, so that all the federal government requirements are funded through corporate taxes and some necessary tariffs. Although the federal government should not interfere in State processes, I will work with states to eliminate property taxes, to fulfill the American Dream of owning property, rather than just renting it from the local government.

Self-Defense is the most basic, fundamental right that underpins all the benefits of liberty in the United States.  As such, I will work to remove many of the infringements made on the Second Amendment that actually work to make individuals and society less safe.  We will move cautiously, to ensure that citizens of all races and economic levels are able to peacefully exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Citizenship is a valuable status, and should be seen as such by all residents in the US.  I will work to reform the Permanent Residence system to discourage de facto dual citizenship. I will work with the finest minds in the United States to emphasize and strengthen the benefits of citizenship to encourage every resident of the US to seek citizenship as soon as possible. For example, perhaps income taxes could be levied only on Visa holders and Permanent Residents, but not US Citizens.

Illegal Immigration will be halted. I will use every power available to me to end and reverse illegal immigration. E-verify will be mandatory, I will work with Congress to pass laws encouraging collection agencies to seek repayment of education and medical costs incurred by illegal aliens, illegal aliens will not be able to obtain driver’s licenses, and we will halt the unConstitutional practice of Illegal Alien Sanctuary Cities.  The IRS will be ordered to take action against stolen identities and Social Security Number fraud. This will result in increased prosperity and employment for US Citizens.  Once our borders are secured and illegal aliens are unable to live comfortably in the US, I will work with the finest minds in the United States to increase legal immigration and guest worker programs that serve the needs of the poorest Americans.

Medical Care is a source of worry and instability in all societies. The demand for medical care is unlimited, but supply is finite. No one will ever be able to obtain the quality and quantity of medical care they want. Most government medical care systems provide an illusion of care by lowering the quality of care to increase the quantity.  The bottom line is, to the government, you are a statistic. Your life has the most value to you and to your loved ones.  The decision for medical care for you and your loved ones should be a decision made only by you, with the input of your doctor, based on what you can afford.  If you include an insurer in the process, you potentially can afford more care, but you also subject yourself to the restrictions of what the insurer will improve, and they will always attempt to limit their costs.  This is even more true if the state or federal government is involved, with the added burden of administrative waste.

It is painful to recognize that you cannot afford all the care you would like to have. It is painful to have someone close to you die when there is treatment you cannot afford.  However, there is no solution that doesn’t involve gross inequality, or allow the politically-connected better care at the expense of everyone else.

As such, your medical care can only be based on what you can afford. If you want more care, you need to save more. If you cannot save more, you must earn more by working harder. If you cannot earn more by working harder, you must find ways to increase your value to employers to earn more. If you cannot increase your value to employers, then you must develop rich relationships with family, and decide among yourselves how to pay for the care your family wants.

If these solutions are not acceptable, then you must rely on charity or insurance.

There are no solutions, only trade-offs, and you will not be able to get all the quality medical care you want.  It is better to understand that now.

I will work with the finest minds in the United States to establish a nationwide, true Catastrophic event insurance that provides a defined level of care (i.e., generic drugs and cost-scaled treatment).  I will also work with Congress to provide incentives for corporations and universities to research new medicine, techniques, and technology, and to ease the rules for voluntary experimental medical care. The rich will continue to underwrite experimental medical treatment for the benefit of all.

 

Okay, that’s all I can think of right now.  What can I improve?  What other topics should I address?  Maybe future installments of this will address Free Speech absolutism and National Defense.

Must-Read Philosophical Books

  • by Gitabushi

The following are all the books on my Must Read List.

These are the books that had the greatest impact on my understanding of the world, that taught me the most about how the world works, that contain the ideas, paradigms, and methods that I still use almost daily.

UPDATE: I guess I should explain why I chose these books.

Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, Richards J. Heuer, Jr.

https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Intelligence-Analysis-Richards-Heuer/dp/B0016OST3O/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=psychology+of+intelligence+analysis&qid=1574439241&s=books&sr=1-1

This book really teaches you how to reason, how to recognize your tendency to bias, and ways to minimize the impact of bias on you.  Great book on how to think.

Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It, by James Q Wilson

https://www.amazon.com/Bureaucracy-Government-Agencies-Basic-Classics/dp/0465007856/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=bureaucracy+wilson&qid=1574439466&s=books&sr=1-1

The study of bureaucracy is really the study of humanity, the study of unexpected consequences, of revealed preferences, etc.  None of us is as dumb as all of us, and this book explains why.

Intelligence Analysis, a Target-Centric Approach:

https://www.amazon.com/Intelligence-Analysis-Target-Centric-Approach-2nd/dp/1933116935

Another “How to Think Better” book. It talks about how when you want to think about something, you have to think of a model of it, useful in the same way as studying a 1:10 scale model of an aircraft carrier can help you understand the whole more easily than studying a full-size aircraft carrier.  If the first book teaches you to avoid bias and know your blind spots, this book is about thinking with more skill about things.

Hellburner and Cyteen, CJ Cherryh

https://www.amazon.com/Hellburner-Questar-Book-C-Cherryh/dp/0446516171/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=hellburner&qid=1574439596&s=books&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Cyteen/dp/B007JQNCPI/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=cyteen&qid=1574439623&s=books&sr=1-1

Hellburner is another bureaucracy book, but not just bureaucracy.  It is a very unusual book in that there is no antagonist. There is a protagonist, but the obstacles come from people doing the right things for the right reasons, but with different skills and conclusions from the protagonist.  I mean, there *is* evil done, but it didn’t intend evil. And yet evil nonetheless results.  A great insight into how groups work.

Cyteen is the book that taught me that you can control your own thinking, and reprogram your emotional reactions if you don’t like what they currently are.  Lots of other stuff in there, too.  The nature of personality/identity/character. 

Inferno, Niven and Pournelle

https://www.amazon.com/Inferno/dp/B001PU0US6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=inferno+niven+pournelle&qid=1574439644&s=audible&sr=1-1

This is the book that really made me consider sin. Sin (being wrong and hurting others, and pride, etc.) was a concept that carried over into my loss of faith, throughout my agnostic period, and ultimately brought me back to faith.  This book explores a lot of that.

Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis

https://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity/dp/B0009NS97E/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3P2ZXP5TR4SLB&keywords=mere+christianity&qid=1574439735&s=audible&sprefix=mere+christianity%2Caudible%2C451&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/Unknown-The-Screwtape-Letters/dp/B000ICM1G6/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=screwtape+letters&qid=1574439717&s=audible&sr=1-1

https://www.amazon.com/The-Great-Divorce/dp/B00JPJH18G/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+great+divorce&qid=1574439697&s=audible&sr=1-1

I really admire C.S. Lewis.  These books are all philosophy of life, and God, and our purpose, and sin, and why we hurt each other, and who we are, and what God’s plan is for us, and why we are farther apart from God than anyone wants to be.  This trio is well worth the read.