*we put the "mmm" in communism


This is the personal blog of Tim. Here, Tim writes on anything he has enough inspiration to finish a post on. That usually ends up being matters of science, pop culture, technology, religion, and philosophy.

This blog is around nine years old, which is over a third of Tim's current age. Back in 2003, it was called "Of Tim: Tim's life - or lack thereof", and it was as bad as you might expect the blog of a freshman in high school to be. Tim hopes that his writing is a little better, these days.

Tim welcomes any input that you, the dear reader, might have. Comments are very much appreciated, especially if you have a dissenting opinion. If you'd like to learn more about Tim, you might want to see his facebook or google+.

Also: Tim is a very avid consumer of various sorts of music. You may be interested in his playlists!

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In January, my friends and I embarked on a project that has become, for me, a serious creative outlet. We decided to start building a town on our Minecraft server. If you don't know what Minecraft is, that's okay - all you need to know is that it's essentially multiplayer Legos. This post is an attempt at sharing some of the amazing creations and the process behind the town's development.

We didn't have any idea what would go on it and we didn't set any rules for what could or couldn't be made. We just started making stuff. The location we chose was nothing more than hills and trees. Sitting in the middle of nowhere, the first creation was a statue of a bug with a sword plunged through it, and some signs (note - these are all recent shots, unfortunately I don't have any from the beginning days):

By Ben

Here's what the signs said:

The Bug King as he was found in 1388, after having been slain by the Bug Slayer. The Bug King's death marked the end of the Insectowars, and ushered in a century of peace and a new golden age.

It's important to note here that this lore was completely made up by Ben. We never had any discussion about there being a background or history to the town, but this proved to be a huge launching point for much of the town's contents. A mural appeared beneath the statue, depicting the battle between the Bug Slayer and the Bug King:

By Matt L.

Then came Credotir, a pheonix statue:

By Matt L.

Credotir, financial god of easy credit and fixed APR.

I figured if we were making a town it should have some town-like buildings. So I made a temple to the sun god:

The next day I logged on, my mind was blown. They'd made a garden behind the temple, and there was a hole in the garden with a tunnel leading to an underground mirror of the temple - but theirs was a temple to the moon god:

By Ben and Matt L.

The tunnel contained some signs, too.

And so, traveler, you seek shelter

deep beneath the earth.

For the light may shine too bright.

Too headstrong, at times.

But worry not.

For the darkness grows brighter over time.

With patience.

It's hard describe the level of excitement I felt as I examined the moon temple. So many details were cleverly mimicked - details that, in building the original temple, I had never considered significant. It's one thing to receive analysis and criticism for something I've created, but it's entirely different to see a creation responded to with more creation. I suddenly had this sense of participating in creative ping pong. I responded by adding some signs and a sacrificial altar in the sun temple:


Other signs read:




Other buildings started popping up. We made an underground rail station and a town hall for posting messages. There was a statue of a jellyfish that, if you stood at the right location, spelled out "FUCK YOU" in floating letters. Eventually we decided on a name: Garbendorg, Fifth Precinct of the Holy Empire.

There was a piece of land next to town that was littered with material for testing minecarts, so we decided to blow it up and make a huge crater. Originally we'd thought to make a part of town inside the crater itself, but we realized that if we built a bridge overhead and covered the top of the crater, we could have a section of town that was literally under the bridge. The slums district was born: a place for ugly buildings to go.

The ugliest material in Minecraft is, by far, sponge - so I decided to make a sponge house. Once it was finished, I declared it the Sponge Home of the Sponge Man, and I expanded on the existing town lore.

Before the Age of Reckoning, Sponges were the uncontested rulers of the land and sea. Their reign was so long that Sponge society came to abandon all their previous ways of war, adopting a peaceful way of life. When the Bug King came, his insect army pillaging the lands, he found the Sponges to be totally unprepared. The Sponges were no match and were wiped off the face of the planet. Now, all that remains of the great Sponge society is a small amount of literature, and their feces, which we value today for its highly absorbent properties.

The next day, there was a flag wafting by the entrance to town, and some signs:

By Ben

The Garbendorg town banner features the Bug Slayer's famed sword StabWhisper, plunged through the Bug King's unholy crown. The sponge trim represents the Bug Slayer's oft-cited lament for the sudden fall of Spongekind. This message brought to you by the Garbendorg Historical Society.

Which was probably the inspiration for DigCleft:

By Matt L.

All hail DigCleft, the mighty shovel once known as StabWhisper, whose reforged might hath smote the earth and paved way for great travel and expedited 2-day shipping on purchases of $20 or greater!

Elsewhere in town, a history of DigCleft is posted.

After the fall of the Bug King it was not long before the Bug Slayer left Garbendorg in search of new adventure. Legend tells that nearly a century later, a man was found near the city limits caked in mud and reeking of sea water. The man claimed to be the son of the Bug Slayer, sent here to build ties between Garbendorg and the exotic cities through which the Bug Slayer had traveled and begin a new era of commerce and expansion. He carried with him DigCleft, a resplendent shovel he said to be StabWhisper reformatted for a new age. Following his example, the warriors of the village turned their blades into tools, and a new era of trade and exploration began.

Since we had a slums district, we figured we also needed a rich district. We decided the rich district should be on a high plateau overlooking the city, so we built a mountain. However, our plans were altered by a chance occurrence just as I was finishing the stairs leading up to it. To grief me, Ben decided to pour water from the top of the stairs, washing me back to the bottom. As I looked at the waterfall on the stairs, I said to him "This kind of looks like a face is vomiting everywhere. OH MY GOD I WILL MAKE A FACE SURROUNDING THE STAIRS":

Of course, long before I finished the face, we realized this could no longer be the rich district. This would be the haunted district, and we would call it Hollow Mountain. Hollow Mountain features a graveyard, the home of the Count of Garbendorg (it's inside the face), and an incredible story-telling tower:

We started getting more ideas for sections to add to the town. I created a frozen canal district, at the center of which is a snowman flipping off the slums:

REAGANOTH: God of winter and disdain for the poor. Mortal enemy of Credotir. Some scholars believe that it is REAGANOTH'S overwhelming hatred for the impoverished that fuels the permanent winter of the canal district.

The canal district sits on the edge of the slums district, and it has a half-frozen waterfall leaking into the slums. Someone added some sponges to hold back the water, and a sign:

Only the sponge holds back REAGANOTH'S mighty wrath.

Another sign is hidden amongst the stones.

We cannot be stopped. Justice shall trickle down.

Then there's TREEBOR:

By Ben







The last of the four gods is an hourglass:

PROCRASTINATIUS: God of college students. Believed to be one of the guiding forces behind the creation of Garbendorg and its many glorious structures.

There's a lot more content in the town I promise I'll get around to sharing (this is less than a fifth of what's been created), but that's probably enough for now. I've also got a boatload of thoughts about how this connects to art and expression, and I'm beginning to question whether this is even a video game at all, but rather a highly simplified design tool. I'll explore those concepts later, though. For now, I just hope I've piqued your interest.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 2 Comments
existential hat trick
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Vocation, con't

"Jack of all trades, master of none, but oft times better than the master of one."

This phrase, written first in 1612, was regarded as a compliment during the Renaissance. Renaissance humanists believed humans to be limitless in their capabilities, and as such should pursue knowledge and mastery in every possible manner. Also known as polymaths, these individuals would learn multiple languages and musical instruments, developing not just intellectual skills, but also their physical prowess, social accomplishments, and artistic capabilities. They're the reason we use the word university (universities were once places of universal education) and why the liberal arts are called the humanities.

Not everyone agrees with this ideal.

"He who embraces too much, has a weak grasp"
"You aim for everything, but you hit nothing"
"Who chases two jackrabbits catches none"
"Seven trades, the eighth one - poverty"

The problem with quotes is that it's easy to mistake a catchy zinger for valid truth, so here's something a little more personally relevant. An extended relative of mine - a concept artist for a custom car designer - gave me a framed piece when I was sixteen years old of this wonky car doing a burnout, and he signed it with this oddly prescient quip:

Pick your direction,
aim it & GO!"

My point, I hope, is illustrated. There's an approach to life that says being well-rounded makes us better at life as a whole, and there's another that says exclusive dedication is the path to success. The truth, I suspect, is a mixture of the two.

I bring all this up because I've found myself incapable of choosing and dedicating to one goal. I was never able to make my goal "get a degree" - I don't want a piece of paper, I want an education that will enable me to do the things I value most. It's hard, though, when everything seems so interconnected and as a result, becomes frustratingly interesting. The internet makes this cycle quite relentless.

I told someone recently that I'd love for people to be saying "Renaissance man" at my funeral. Maybe it's morbidly narcissistic to dream up the speeches people will give about me when I'm dead, but it's the only way I can come close to imagining what I want my entire life to look like - through the fantasized approval of others. Of course, there's a less cynical perspective, too. Perhaps I just enjoy making people happy in a lasting way.

It occurs to me that my altruism was probably a misdiagnosis of a strong case of humanism, and suddenly it all seems a little clearer. Engaging with humanity is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Relationships are my vocation. They are what I find satisfaction and joy in. Building new connections, strengthening old ones, and navigating adversity and challenge together with my comrades in life - these are the things that make my life worth living.

Having reached this point, I think I can confidently give two answers to the initial question: what is my reason for living?

#1: Shark catapaults
#1: To enjoy my time with family and friends to the utmost possible degree
#2: To help other people do #1

Time and time again #2, for me, keeps coming back to a simple fact: to help other people, I have to understand them. I am a man of science, and the scientific approach to understanding human behavior is psychology. I've talked on occasion about marriage/family counseling - an especially interesting option when I consider that a significant portion of my father's job as a preacher is doing just such counseling. In the end, the apple might not be falling far from the tree.

This isn't a perfect answer, but I think part of beating the existential crisis means accepting that there are also just "pretty good" answers. As long as I'm keeping a watchful eye over how my answers are faring against reality and adapting as becomes necessary, I see no reason not to set sail by this compass - and I am long overdue to leave port.

College, round five. Let's rock.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 4 Comments
more birthday manifesto
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A big thanks to Ben Myers for the domain name suggestion. A few people said they would have liked more, but I figured it was time to embrace the name of the blog. Maybe we'll see oftim make a return somewhere else, though.

Relationships, con't

As unpredictable and tempestuous as my emotional state can be, I've never had cause to question the depth the connections I have with my family and friends. Even at my most self-absorbed, I could never bring myself to say that no one in the world cares about me or loves me. Perhaps my greatest mistake over the past years has been giving legitimacy to feelings of loneliness. Which leads me to conclude that the loneliness I've experienced has very little to do with a lack of companionship, but a discomfort with being alone. It would be easy to pass that discomfort off as me just being a social guy, but I think the existential crisis demands a more complete explanation.

To bring this back to the original question a little bit (what's my reason for living?), my investigation into altruism as a way of life has already shown me that I need more than just to live for other people. I wouldn't be satisfied to look back and say "yeah, I was a pretty good friend/brother/son/husband/father" while the rest of my life stayed in relative stasis. That dissatisfaction would eventually overpower whatever drive I had to keep strong with my relationships. The discomfort I feel while alone is, I predict, a foreshadowing of what I can expect in the future if I don't start to fill in the gaps that no one else can fill.


I used to believe in the existence of soul mates, until a conservation I had with a good friend in high school about arranged marriage. She had a very simple stance: with time and effort, most people can learn to love each other, and that love will be no less legitimate or genuine than the spontaneous love that we value so highly. Our culture craves choice and shuns the idea of something as significant as love being chosen for us, but I see a very similar situation when it comes to how we make our living. We often approach careers from the standpoint of "what am I supposed to do?", as though there is an optimal answer to the question. I'm beginning to suspect that what we end up doing in our 9-5 is pretty arbitrary, in the end. It doesn't so much matter what we do - what matters more is how we do it (not always true - I'll address the exceptions to this more in my next post).

I have wished, on more than one occasion, that I had been born and bred for a specific profession. Imagine the life of a blacksmith in the middle ages, for example. Apprenticed into the trade at a young age, he would be learning, performing, and mastering his craft for the rest of his life. There would be no question about what he was meant to do or why he was doing it, because the answer is very simple: he's a blacksmith because that's what he knows how to do. He would, with time, probably learn to love what he does and find satisfaction in his work. He would adapt, or suffer for the rest of his life. Assuming he isn't a masochist, the choice is obvious.

Growing up, I always hated being asked what my favorite subject was, because I was one of those kids that liked all of them. I'd usually end up picking whichever subject I was best at. I'm a competitive guy, and I take a lot of joy in being the best at practically anything. A consistent trend in my past has been to pursue whatever I'm doing the best at. Much of the time, that's ended up being video games.

I'm gonna take a second here to discuss video games. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs. If you don't care.

Competitive video games are amazing at bestowing a sense of accomplishment. There's an interesting personality metric for gamers called the Bartle Test, which describes player behavior in four ways: (A)chievement, (E)xploration, (S)ocialization, and (K)illing. I always came out as an ASKE because I primarily focused on achievement, usually through socialization and, at times, pwning other players. To illustrate this, in SK, my character's primary job was as the high priest of his religion (a social position perceived as high achievement), but he was also the leader of a country involved in multiple wars (a social and killing position, also perceived as high achievement).

The way I played WoW followed the same pattern. Anyone that played with me will quickly remember how obsessed I was with maintaining top DPS (and my constant announcing of crit records - I was such a rogue, lol). As a final example, the way I play HoN would also classify as very achieving/socializing. I've made a lot of friends during my time playing, and I've spent a lot of time just toying around with the social dynamics of the game. My favorite games have been those where I would turn the tide by raising the morale of the team. I think my favorite game of all time was one where I was playing extremely poorly - by far the worst in the game. I knew we could still win, though, so I relentlessly made fun of myself and the other team to bring the focus away from bitching at each other. It worked, and we won. Far more satisfying than any of my kill streaks, in the end.

There - done with the video game segue.

Unfortunately, I can't play video games for a living, but I wouldn't be happy doing that anyways. Professional sports, in my mind, are just another branch of entertainment. Entertainment is nice, but I don't believe it adds real, long-term value to society. I imagine I would begin to feel very empty if my craft primarily enabled people to distract themselves away from more important matters. Above all else, I yearn to make a lasting impact on the people I meet. That means going deeper. You know. Inception-style.

Next post, I'll explore the challenges of choosing amidst a sea of frustratingly interesting possibilities, the pros and cons of the "Renaissance Man" in an age of extreme job specialization, and why this is a problem that's only going to get worse as the internet enters more and more into our daily lives.
posted by MC Froehlich at with 2 Comments