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.


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.

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.

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

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:

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

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

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

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.

MAME/Arcade, Pt III

  • by Gitabushi

Here’s a good tutorial for the emulation part:


You can be very picky about your joystick and buttons. If you played arcades in the US in the 80s, you are most likely familiar with the feel of Happ devices.  If you want to get really good at playing the games (and why else would you be playing the games, except to get better?), then you should know that Happ prioritized durability over precision. Happ joysticks sometimes overcorrect when you release them (due to strong springs and heavy sticks), and you have to push them farther to get them to register the movement.  Happ buttons are concave and need to be pressed farther to register the push.  Japanese-style joysticks tend to feel looser (and so feel cheaper), but register your movement more quickly and don’t move as far. That makes them more nimble and more responsive.  Japanese-style buttons are concave, and register with lighter touch.  If you are playing a game where rapid presses are necessary for a better rate of fire, you want Japanese style.

And once you decide whether you want US-style or Japanese-style, you can decide to go name-brand or cheaper copy.

I’m going with the cheaper copy.  I figure if they wear out, I can always upgrade on replacement. Or the cheaper might be good enough, so why waste money on quality I’m not experienced enough to perceive.

Now, I’m still exploring what I want, and how I’m going to arrange it.  At this point, I know I want build a control board that can hook up to any TV.  This is more than partially because my wife opposes having an arcade cabinet.  But there are still things I don’t know about how the games will play, configuring the controllers, etc., so my current play is to buy a full set of controllers and temporarily install them in a cardboard box to test out locations. If it all works for the games I want to play, and once I’m satisfied with the location, I’ll build my box.

To that end, here’s the set I’m going to buy:

EG Starts gets good reviews, overall, even though this set is not yet reviewed. It is a Japanese-style copy. The buttons light up, which is cool, and will help if I play in the dark. It includes the joystick/button circuit board, so that’s one less thing you have to buy, and one less thing to figure out (good instructions are included).  Moreover, if you have LED buttons, you often have to be careful of the positive/negative input, but this one avoids that problem with a simpler installation that avoids having to worry about positive/negative poles.

Once I try them out, I’ll provide my review here.

So at this point, here’s what I have or have on the way:

Display (whatever TV I want to use)
All controller inputs (including player number and coin inputs)
MAME software

Now, I say I have MAME software, but what I’ve done is tried out the games I want to play on MAME32.  I have MAME33, as well, but I wasn’t able to immediately load up roms with it. Now, MAME32 is for Windows, and I’m going to use a Raspberry Pi 3B for my “brain”, which means Linux, which means the MAME32 won’t work.  However, many of the MAME32 roms will work with the Linux emulator MAME4ALL, running under RetroPie.  If not, I’ll figure out how to put a Windows XP OS on the Raspberry Pi 3B and use MAME32.

Instructions on how to install a Windows OS onto a Raspberry Pi 3B can be found in links here:

I do happen to have an old computer I got at a garage sale that runs Windows XP. I bought it to be able to play old DOS games, but haven’t gotten around to installing them yet.  I should be able to get a disk image from that and install, if necessary.

But we’ll go the Linux and MAME4ALL route first.

So the input connects with an HDMI cable attached to the HDMI output of the Raspberry Pi 3B. The controllers connect to the included circuit board using pin connectors, and then those boards connect to the Raspberry Pi 3B via USB connectors.  The Raspberry Pi 3B has a mini-SD card slot, and I will download and install RetroPie (operating system) and MAME4ALL (program), plus all the Roms (program plug-ins) of the games I want to play onto the mini-SD card.

I’m having a hard time finding out exactly how big RetroPie is, but there is widespread agreement that 32GB is enough to install RetroPie, several emulators, and up to about 10,000 roms.  That should be plenty.

I have a bunch of 32GB mini SD cards sitting around.  I have no need to have 10000 games loaded onto one card, so  I’ll probably have one 32GB card with all my favorites, and a second 32GB card with games I want to try out to see if I want to move up to my favorites card.  That should prevent being confused by the number of choices on my main card.

Here’s a great description of how to get that up and running:

And here’s another take on the same issue:

Retro Gaming on Raspberry Pi: Understanding ROMs, RetroPie, Recalbox, and More

So at this point, all I need to do is decide on a Raspberry Pi.  I’ll probably go with the Raspberry Pi 3B, as I said, but I’m open to the Raspberry Pi 3B+.

Wish me luck!

MAME/Arcade Project, Update 1

  • by Gitabushi

Okay, I’ve found where you can get the Pi Zero for $5. You have to go direct to dealers:

Raspberry Pi Zero

It seems like the best place for a power supply is still Amazon, at $8 for one with an on/off switch:

You want the on/off switch, or else you can only reset by yanking the power cord out of the socket, and that’s very bad for computers.

The power supplies from the dealers are either more expensive than $8, or lack the on/off aspect, or both.

Also, note that you need the hdmi adapter and you have to solder a header on to use a pHat, but it looks like for an Arcade system, you don’t have to worry about that.


Still, you start adding in all the necessary extras, and the zero might not be worth its reduced cost.  I’ll find out or figure it out and get back to you.

MAME/Arcade Project

  • by Gitabushi

I’ve learned so much over the last 4 days, it’s hard to know where to begin.

And that’s why it can be so difficult to get started.  There are so many people who have tutorials and advice and input into how to build your own home arcade/retro emulator system, that it can be difficult to know what to retain of what you want.

I’m going to try to sum it all up, and make this a one-stop shop for if you want to develop a home Arcade or Retro home gaming system.

Basically, deciding to develop a home arcade/retro gaming system is pretty much a series of binary choices (or near binary):

  • Do you want to buy something virtually ready to go out of the box, or build your own?
  • Do you want to build an arcade cabinet, or build a controller box that you can plug into any TV?
  • Do you want the original game controller configuration, or are you willing to adapt to a standard set of controls?
  • Do you want to just play Arcade games, or do you want retro games like NES, SNES, GameBoy and Sega?  Or both?

I basically want to play a few set games:

Joust (1 joystick, 1 button per player, 2 player)
Karate Champ (2 joysticks per player, 2 player)
Dig Dug (1 joystick, 1 button per player, 1 player (because if you have 2 players, they play in a series, not simultaneously…although the game had 2 buttons with simultaneous function, I guess for Left and Right handed players)
Gauntlet (1 joystick, 2 buttons per player, 4 player)
Street Fighter 2 (1 joystick, 6 buttons per player, 2 player)

There are things you could do to accomodate all that.  You could make a 4 player control panel, with a joystick and 6 buttons for each player, and then if you loaded a game that needed less, just disable input of the unneeded buttons and joysticks.  That would mean that Karate Champ would be played by using the joysticks of 2 players and ignoring all the buttons.

It’s doable, even the use of the joysticks of two different players for Karate Champ, because it shouldn’t really matter if they are widespread.  It depends on how much of the arcade nostalgia experience you want to have.

That’s kind of the first non-binary question: how important is it to you to have the full arcade experience?  It leads to the first sorta-binary question:

Do you want an arcade cabinet, or just to play the games?

Because if you just want to play the games, like Joust, you can get an emulator that will work on your computer, and use your keyboard buttons…and even assign the keyboard buttons as you wish for convenience, so two can play using the same keyboard.

You can even set up Karate Champ to use keyboard keys, because the joysticks really are just a way to input “up/down/right/left” signals. Easy to do with keys.

When you do a game emulator the roms accept keyboard inputs to control what you do in the game.  So when you buy all your joysticks and buttons and trackballs and spinners, the first thing you do is attack all those inputs into a circuit board, which then outputs all the signals to the computer. Which is either your PC, a Raspberry Pi, or some proprietary circuit board/processor in the retro machine you bought.  Right now, most of the retro machines on use Raspberry Pi or Orange Pi.

So, really, the sky’s the limit when it comes to inputs.

If you want to play Joust, Street Fighter, Centipede, Gauntlet, and Tempest, you can build 5 different machines, each with their own Raspberry Pi or PC “brains”, and each with a separate set of controls.

Or you could build one arcade cabinet with different control panels that you could swap out (and there is enough space in the cabinet you could make a carpet-lined storage spot for each board). In this case, there is one screen and one brain. Each control module would have its input controls (joysticks, buttons, spinner, etc.) and the input circuit board.  It’s output would be a USB that you would plug into the “brain” (probably a Raspberry Pi).  You’d save the cost of the multiple screens, multiple sound systems, and multiple cabinets.  This might be the cheapest choice to get a complete set of accurate control panels for ALL the games.  And you could start with one control module that can play a set number of games, and then add as you get bored or want to invest more money.  Even the 2-joystick system for Karate Champ is shared with Robotron and SmashTV (among others).  Add a single button, and you can ignore a joystick and play Joust and Dig Dug and Donkey Kong…and anything in the Pac Man series, even without the button.

Something like this:


Plans for this can be purchased for $20.  I’d want to do something slightly different, because I’d want to drop in the control modules…the 4-player gauntlet would be about 4 feet tall, and would have to go into the back part.  The Karate Champ and Joust control modules could go in the front, probably.  It would make the wife happier to have all the modules have a dedicated, hidden storage location.

Or you could build individual boxes, each with its own brain, and the output would be an HDMI cable that you plug into the TV.  This is the most flexible.  You could bring a box over to your friend’s house to play.  You could bring a smaller one on vacation. Something like this:   Obviously, that one wouldn’t work for Joust or Missile Command.  And it wouldn’t work for Gauntlet unless you made 4 of them…which, since the Raspberry Pi has 4 USB inputs, would probably actually work.

A Raspberry Pi itself (if you want to really build your own from scratch) costs around $35.  But don’t let that fool you.  You also need a power supply.You’ll probably need some heat sinks (to prevent overheating…there are some programs that will stress the system, more on this later). You might want a power-off switch.  Depending on your application, you might want a case.

This is the cheapest I’ve found, might be enough for an arcade system, but you’ll still need to add an on/off switch.

This includes the on/off switch, but also includes a case you won’t need if your Pi will stay in the arcade cabinet, or inside your controller module:

You could get a Raspberry Pi 4, which has additional capabilities, but now we are up to over $60, which adds a bunch of costs if you want to put a Pi into each controller box (for the non-cabinet solution):

But, to be honest, all you *really* need is a Raspberry Pi Zero.  Remember that the goal is achieve the computing power for 30 year old arcades and home consoles.  That’s not difficult, and the Zero meets or exceeds it. The only problem you’re going to have trying to use a Raspberry Pi Zero for emulation is if you try to do 32-bit games, which is the N64, PS1, and Sega Saturn era. Basically, if you can give up on 3D games and just stick to 2D, the Raspberry Pi Zero is enough.

Supposedly, you can get a Zero for just $5.  Amazon doesn’t have that, tho, because you need a bunch of stuff to make it work, and they helpfully sell it all to you in a kit. Here’s one, the cheapest I have found so far for one that includes a power supply, at $26:

So, basically, if you decide to use multiple brains for each set of games, you are adding about $25 if you use the Zero.  Maybe you less if you find a non-WiFi equipped version somewhere else, and buy your power supplies and other peripherals in bundles?  Dunno.

What I’ve decided to do is buy enough equipment to set up a controller module with its own brain, and see how I like it before I decide to build an arcade cabinet or not.

What I’ll do is buy one Raspberry Pi Zero, 4 joysticks, and 8 buttons.  Then I will take a cardboard box and install the controls in the box. I’ll reinforce it somewhat, and then play the games on it.  That gives me the chance to adjust the locations of the controls to see what kind of spacing works best, without having put that much work into it.  It will allow me to easily adjust the controller-to-USB-board arrangements, to see how easy it would be to modularize the inputs…so could I have a module of 6 buttons that I can swap out with a joystick or with 2 buttons, so that I can switch between Gauntlet, Street Fighter, Joust, and Karate Champ configurations?  Or will it work to just have one big board with 4 joysticks and 6 buttons for each joystick, and just disable the inputs that aren’t needed for each game (using two different players’ joysticks and no buttons at all for Joust)?

After a few weeks of experience, I’ll be able to tell if I just miss standing in front of an arcade, or if having to use widespread joysticks annoys me for Joust or if the 4 unused Street Fighter buttons annoy me for Gauntlet, or 5 unused buttons annoy me for Dig Dug.

I think this is where I’m leaning, however: one big board that has all those options.  Hopefully the unused buttons or stations won’t annoy me. Because that will really provide the maximum number of games without having to change anything.  And if I enjoy it playing it on a regular TV, that just saves me the hassle of trying to build something like this:


Here’s a good link for everything that goes into making a controller panel:

How to make a Raspberry Pi arcade (with NO programming)

Now that I’ve made my decision, and hopefully helped you get closer to making your decision, future installments will detail my actual buying and building process, including which controllers I’ve chosen, and why.


The Left Seeks One Thing: Power

  • by Gitabushi

There are always different ways to look at things.  You can look at things from a different angle or from a different paradigm.

Take the human body. A doctor learns many things about you by looking in your ears, throat, eyes, taking your blood pressure, blood sample, etc.

Or he could do a CAT scan or MRI.

Or he could consider your health from a system perspective: endocrine system, nervous system, vascular system, etc.

Or he could cut you into 1″ slices and learn from that perspective, but that’s usually only done to cadavers, in my experience.

So to understand the Left and how it acts in the US, there are different ways to look at it and attempt to understand it.

I could say “them”, but the Left does aspire to Borg-like levels of collectiveness.  And they do act as a group in a manner different than on the individual level, and I think it is useful, at times, to treat the Left as one entity.

So I can say that the Left is dened by its committed and earnest belief that everything in the world is Rule or Be Ruled, and they intend to Rule you.

I could note that the Left doesn’t believe in democracy at all, despite talking about it all the time, because to them, democracy is just a tool to get what they want.  This doesn’t contradict that they fervently want to enact a Rule or Be Ruled paradigm everywhere, it’s just a different aspect.

I could also say, as I do in the title, that “the Left seeks one thing: Power” and still be fully accurate.

Or I could point out what they want the power *for*.

The motivation for the Left wanting power is they want the power to avoid unwanted consequences and, whenever and where-ever possible, shift all negative consequences onto their enemies…which is anyone that doesn’t join their hive-mind collective.

See, the Left doesn’t like consequences, accountability, or democracy.  So they set up the CFPB to exist and act outside of federal control.  That way, their loyal Leftist CFPB director could punish capitalism, reduce freedom, and fund Leftist activities without any way a pesky GOP POTUS or Congress could do anything to even slow it down, much less stop it.  It is a travesty that it even existed this long, and it is a travesty that it isn’t a slam dunk the SCOTUS will strike this anti-democratic institution down.

The Left doesn’t want accountability for when its leaders engage in unethical or illegal behavior, but exploits its claims of love for democracy to protect its potential POTUS nominees.  Because Trump is automatically wrong and anything he does automatically violates norms and is impeachable, and the only thing that ever needs to be done is to figure out how to characterize his statements or actions in a way that proves his perfidy, even if it is exactly like what every other POTUS has done in office going back several decades.

We really need to crush the Left, because they are going over the Cliffs of Insanity and taking the nation with them.



Bands with Multiple Lead Singers

  • by Gitabushi

After going through Survivor’s discography (and mostly liking it), I have continued to explore other Jim Peterik bands.  I do not recommend World Stage, but I generally don’t like recordings of live performances, and that’s what World Stage seems to be.  But I digress.

I have started listening to Pride of Lions, and just like World Stage, it features Jim Peterik sharing lead vocal duties with someone else who has a higher voice.

Jim Peterik was the lead singer of the Ides of March, so that’s his voice you hear on “Vehicle.” When he formed Survivor with Frankie Sullivan, the intent was he would share lead singer duties with Dave Bickler, but Frankie put a stop to that fairly quickly. Still, it’s Jim’s vocals on “Love Has Got Me” (which sounds like it was a hit song you never actually heard of, but it never charted).


The singer-with-a-higher-voice in Pride of Lions is Toby Hitchcock, who quite often sounds like Dennis DeYoung of Styx.

Which made me think:

Styx was fairly unusual in that it had multiple lead singers, and all had major radio hits.  Most of the time, like Survivor, the band coalesces around a main front man, the face and voice of the band.  To the point that people don’t realize that, say, J. Geils was the guitarist, not the lead singer.


That made me think: what other bands had multiple lead singers?

Roger Taylor and Brian May both sang some lead on Queen Albums.  Roger Taylor sang “I’m in Love With My Car,” which was a fan favorite, but wasn’t really a charted hit. Freddie Mercury was the lead singer for that band.

I’d heard a story that Hall and Oates started when Oates was leading a band and getting heckled by someone in the audience. Oates said, “If you think you can do better, come up and do it.” And it was Hall, and he did, and he became the main lead singer. That doesn’t appear to be a true story, but I still like it. In any case, Hall was the front man. Oates still sang a song or two occasionally, but Hall was the face of the band.

Yes was always led by Jon Anderson, but when Trevor Rabin joined, he started sharing some of the lead duties.

Genesis was Peter Gabriel,until he left, and then Phil Collins became the lead singer.

So all these kind of apply, but none really have the “Multiple lead singers, each getting their own hit song opportunities.”

the cars

The first band I thought of that fit the bill was The Cars.  Rik Ocasek was the main lead singer, but Ben Orr sang “Just What I Needed” and “Drive” and shared lead singing duties with Rik in General.

Then I thought of Triumph, which had Rik Emmett singing most of the lead, but the drummer sang quite a bit, too.  Just Rik had most of the more famous songs, I think.

Heart sort of fits the bill. Both Ann and Nancy Wilson had big hits, but Nancy didn’t really do much lead singing before the huge hit “These Dreams”.  She followed it with “There’s the Girl”, but Ann was still the main lead singer. In fact, their vocal styles were so similar, unless you saw who the singer was in the video, you might not have realized it wasn’t Ann.

Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship had a number of lead singers, I guess, but they were mostly sequentially, until Grace Slick shared lead singing duties with Mickey Thomas in Starship. Not sure how much that counts.

None of these bands share lead singing duties to the level of Styx, however.  The Cars come the closest, perhaps.

Then I thought of Night Ranger.  Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades. They shared lead singing duties quite a bit. Pick a song you like from Night Ranger, and it has about an equal chance to be sung by Kelly as by Jack.



Chicago fits. Peter Cetera was the known lead singer, but keyboardist Robert Lamm sang lead on a bunch of songs (like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?”, and in my research, I found out guitarist Terry Kath sang lead on “Color My World” and “Make Me Smile” two of my favorites).

Then I thought of a band that exceeds what Styx did with 3 lead singers:



Sure, Paul Stanley sang most of the songs, but Gene Simmons sang quite a bit of lead, too. And while those two are the nucleus of the band, they sought out both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss because they could sing lead. And Criss sang lead on their mega-hit “Beth.”

And then I thought of the band that had the ultimate mix of lead singers:

Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER

The Eagles.

Don Henley. Glenn Frey. Don Felder. Joe Walsh (“Life in the Fast Lane”). Timothy B. Schmidt (“I Can’t Tell You Why”). Randy Meisner (“Take it to the Limit”). Bernie Leadon.

Every single one of them (members at different times) have lead singing credits for the band.  The only one that didn’t have a huge hit for the band is Bernie Leadon.

What did we learn from this?

I think the casual fan wants to associate a band with a lead singer, someone who is the face of the band, and a consistent voice. Also, if the lead singer has nothing else to do but sing, they will be more jealous of the lead singing duties. The bands who were most successful in sharing the lead singing duties were those where the lead singers were also major instrumentalists, who contributed to the band’s success with their songwriting and instrumental skills, regardless of whether they were singing any specific song.

The Eagles, Kiss, Chicago, and Styx. In pretty much that order.

Who did I miss? What other bands had success with multiple, simultaneous lead singers?