Random Philosophical or Sentimental Crap


Is there a connection between art being what makes life worth living (vs merely surviving blah blah) and it being what distracts us from our responsibility(ies) to one another/our community/country/whatever? (yes I know it can be leveraged to inspire us to action, but still)


“when you’re consuming it and having feelings about it” – that’s what art is supposed to do to you.

Everything after that is what you do with your own emotions.



ear (fellow) nerds, do not be afraid to grow. Facts are useful and fiction can be enlightening, but they will not expand your mind like direct experiences will. Learn what it means to be human – and understand that more often than not that probably entails an ineffable mix of humility and confidence. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.



This post is meant to be more anthropological than sentimental. I think an important part of love is finding someone who wants to live in the same world as you.


Assorted Articles (Dec 2015)


Socially awkward cucumbers with anxiety


So I’ve been thinking about “conservative vs. liberal” thinking and I think I may have at least one finger on it.

Conservatives care about survival and strength and identifying and maintaining the elite group (those who’ve demonstrated their strength and worthiness of trust and leadership responsibility) that will best keep the country alive. Liberals care about inclusiveness and understanding and making sure that even those seemingly incapable of speech or interest in speaking (e.g. voting) have some voice heard.

Conservativism goes wrong when it lets people get hurt out of fear that those people might weaken the elite group if allowed into it. Liberalism goes wrong when it lets compassion for other people weaken the country without some positive trade-off (i.e. investing money is ok because you’re getting something for it later, but wasting money is not OK).

Conservatives are scared of people outside the trusted group having power; liberals are scared of non-inclusive/elite groups having power. Both are scared because they feel the object of their fear will make selfish choices rather than choices that are in the best interest of the country.

Conservatives are frustrated with liberals because they feel that “C’mon you guys – you are so smart and productive and could be so great for this country, if you just gave up on all those lazy, dirty, evil folks who aren’t like you and me.” Liberals are frustrated with conservatives because they feel that “Listen, assholes, if you could just start thinking about someone other than yourself for a minute, you’d see that it’s not a fault in their character but in a rigged system that keeps them from being smart and productive, like you and me.”

Where am I off the mark? What did I miss?
(replies:  I think that saying conservatives are only supportive of the “elite” is slightly off-base. For the record, I think this is a really comprehensive description. But I think that conservatives value hard-work and anyone willing to do that from either side (politically, economically, socially, etc.) is a positive asset.

Try to help people to help themselves, not give them everything they need. Its the whole give a/teach to fish aspect

My favorite framework is that conservatism/progressivism (which I think is a more useful word in this instance) is about biases in decision making. Conservatives respond to risk/doubt by falling back to well understood approaches and partners; progressives respond by attempting to find new approaches and partners. Both biases are going to be wrong a very significant portion of the time (at the end of the day you’re still guessing)

It seem conservatives are prone to essentialism and liberals are prone to relativism. Whereas the universe is really existential and absolute.

One thing you didn’t mention that maybe also applies: A conservative’s perception of their own stake in the state or in your words “elite group” is magnified respectively to a liberal’s. If you’re going to define conservatism as partially the result being risk averse and in-group-centric, then it’s easy to see how conservatism arose out of resource guarding. Resources can be anything from wealth or cultural clout (and both produce behavioral constraints). A liberal “cares about inclusiveness” because perceptually they view people as having more or less equal standing in the state (or minimal stake relative to anyone else). I’m sure there’s some kind of psychological mechanisms at work, too. I think these things are complicated by the size of current society and other factors.

Of course there’s also a physical limit to understanding the effect one’s behavior has upon the society we inhabit. Our society is extremely massive and the mechanism by which collective efforts (intentional or not) operate are obscured from view. No one in their right mind has a desire to cause harm or destruction to anyone else but once you remove the ability to perceive what collective actions have, people can safely hide behind words like ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ or ‘inclusive’ or ‘selfish’ or whatever other self-describing personality bs you want to use.)


Whoa what a strange dream. There was something in the air or the water, an organism or its chemical by-product, that caused people to act self-destructively and to spread the “something” (contaminant)- though it was also ambiguous whether the ” victims ” were spreading it consciously or whether they were unaware of the pandemic consequences of their behavior. The tricky part is- some people were killing or quarantining themselves or others (basically writing themselves and others out of the bigger story) in order to prevent the contaminant from spreading. So you had people without free will harming themselves and indirectly harming others by being unable to stop themselves from spreading that self-harm impulse to more people, and you had people who were smart enough to notice that before falling victim to it themselves but whose only solution so far was to consciously remove themselves and others from society (either by isolation or by death). Though who could tell if that’s what they were really doing or if that was just a new mutation of the existing contaminant? The only reason not to think so is the contaminant only made people hurt themselves and spread itself, and these people were hurting themselves and were directly hurting others (though in the name of protecting the larger populace from the contaminant). In the case of isolation (rather than death), it still felt wrong because it was abandoning those already infected and those elsewhere who could get infected. Though maybe I’d have felt differently if the narrative of the dream followed those who isolated themselves rather than those still at risk. I wonder if this wasn’t an allegory about public policy. It was terrifying and depressing regardless. Thanks for being such a crazy bastard, sleeping brain.


“In addition to the grand jury bill, Brown signed a measure that ensures the right of civilians to record or photograph the police in public areas. In the past, some civilians who have done so have been arrested, or told to stop, for obstructing justice.”

I’m interested in hearing (and that’s not a “let’s fight”, I really want to hear the other side on this) examples in which someone who is not physically in the way of an arrest is obstructing justice by recording police activity.

The only scenario I can think of is if it’s a raid or something and so broadcasting positions/movement puts the officers at greater risk. Otherwise, I do not understand how greater transparency is obstructive. I can see how there might be privacy concerns for the citizens involved, but not legal/criminal concerns. Please, inform me.

(reply: I suppose it could also be an issue for the privacy of the people interacting with the police, particularly if they are minors.)


Assorted Articles (Jan 2016)


RPG Rant/Observation–
When designing or running an RPG, I think four basic questions are probably more important than any others:
1) Does X (what’s about to happen/not happen, or in the case of design – what might happen/not happen) benefit from uncertainty and/or from being a choice? If no real opportunities will result from introducing uncertainty/choice, narrate or let someone else narrate with authority.
(Unless powerlessness is a theme or the players aren’t comfortable/confident enough yet, or the like…).
2) If uncertainty/choice indeed improves upon the situation, then should the choice/conflict be resolved narratively or tactically? With what level of rigor? (e.g. how long does that combat need to go on for?)
3) Is it a good story? If not, revise the way you’re answering the first two questions.
Maybe the players are making bad choices, but maybe you are not offering them the right opportunities.
4) Is everyone having fun? If not, revise the way you’re answering the first three questions. Fun is more important than a good story – though ideally the two will not be at odds if everyone in your gaming group is a good fit for each other and for the game/story.

BONUS: Thoughts about themes in games…

In terms of bringing out the themes of a story, I think you need to think about where in the rules “story” happens.

In DnD, is it with a skill check? Is it a narrative plot point? Is it the outcome of a combat encounter?
What rolls matter and why do they matter? What choices matter and how do they contribute to the growth of a character, the group dynamic, and/or to external elements of the game world?
Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll have a firmer grasp of where and how your theme should be a part of play/rules/mechanics.

It makes sense to create a new stat or mechanic to call attention to Suspicion or Hope or Vice or whatever, if that’s an important aspect of the story you’re telling in your game- but otherwise more rules almost never equals more fun.
Rules slow story down- and while the “game” is an important element of the RPG, it needs to be present and fulfilling WITHOUT getting in the way of the creative experience. Otherwise, why not just play a minis game or better still a CRPG which does all the math in the background for you?

“But aren’t RPGs the legacy of tactical games with story just as fancy dressing?”
Yes, but anyone can add story/character to a game if the priority is the game itself. You can describe conflict cinematically in games like Chess or Pandemic or Risk (especially if you’ve got that one unit that somehow beat the odds), and that will likely scratch your itch- but if you are setting out to tell a story, you need to respect rules and implement them creatively, without letting them monopolize your attention.



New life goal: maintain the drive that makes philosophical thought actionable (or maybe action-oriented) without overstepping into presumption/arrogance, nor slipping lazily back into “personal development” and interesting conversation pieces (while helpful to some, that is an insufficient end goal).

Also, understand there is some measure of arrogance in presuming to make change- own that, don’t let it hold you back. Arrogance is only a problem when it means you’ve stopped listening/paying attention. Inaction and complacence are the real devils here.


Dear anxiety-prone nerds (and others who generally feel like outsiders),




All communities should have a site like this and promote the shit out of it: http://volunteer.jerseycitynj.gov/ That won’t compel people to contribute but it will help focus the efforts of those who seek to do so and that’s enough of a victory.