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 (Feb-Apr 2016)



Oops this ended up being a gaming blog post about inclusiveness and having fun. Oh well. TL;DR – your game is more fun when your players feel like their contributions are valued, and that doesn’t have to compromise anyone else’s ability to have fun.

A tabletop RPG (Dungeons & Dragons, etc.) of any kind amounts to collaborative storytelling.
Story-telling = you are creating media (even if the audience is limited to the authors)
Collaborative = what you’re doing is built by a team/community and the activity itself reinforces a sense of community/belonging

As such: representation, participation in “authorship” of the game world and how it works, and sensitivity to topics/situations your players may not be comfortable with are important considerations for all DMs who want to engage in collaborative story-telling. Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating players, which is almost literally the opposite of how ‘having fun’ works. “You didn’t intend to make [that potential new player] feel unwelcome, just the opposite – but things fall apart because we insist other people live on our terms.” (see video below for more of this)

Once you remind yourself and your players it’s a made-up world and you (collectively) can make ‘what it is/includes and how it works’ however you want (even if you’re in a “canon” setting), players will feel empowered to contribute their ideas about “what it’s like” and how things work in this world, and will go nuts with their new-found sense of author-ity, resulting in a really unique and cool game world they are excited to play in, because it really is theirs.

Three challenges you might encounter, and how to overcome them:
1) what one player thinks is cool, another player thinks is stupid or doesn’t make sense with the rest of the world. Figure out if it’s within the scope of your game’s tone (for instance: a Narnia-esque game about kids exploring a magical world filled with wonder probably shouldn’t explore more mature themes, unless you’re putting a dark twist on that genre in your game and all your players are cool with that). If the idea is not going to change the fundamental story you’re trying to tell, and it’s a cool detail one of your players is excited about for story reasons, try to accommodate it. If you can’t accommodate it, make a sincere effort to work with the player to come up with something that does fit in your game and satisfies whatever underlying point that player was getting at with his/her idea. Otherwise, you’re basically telling that player their contributions are unwelcome.
2) what one player thinks is cool, epic, badass, etc. makes another player uncomfortable. Figure out why each player feels that way. Oftentimes, it’s not the details that matter to the player who thinks it’s cool, only the implication behind them or the consequence resulting from the cool idea, and they can probably achieve their desired result without dragging the story through territory that makes others at the table uncomfortable. For the player(s) who is/are uncomfortable, without being pushy about it get a sense for what about the situation makes them want to disengage, so you can make sure to steer clear of that topic/situation later on in the story as well.
3) your players have drastically different ideas about what the game’s tone should be and/or what scenes are relevant to the game/story. Set aside time to have a discussion in which you re-establish ground rules about what story you have come together to tell (is it gritty, campy, what? are certain scenes better explained through a narrated sentence from the DM rather than forcing your group to play through them?). This applies just as much to how you handle combat as it does to how you handle love scenes/stories as it does to how you handle the terrible things your totally evil bad guys do.

2) Ms. Marvel has some interesting takes on heroism. I’m on board:
“Why are kids like me always being drafted into wars we didn’t start? It’s like adults are too wrapped up in their own worlds to notice the really big stuff. Weird alien mist, runaway kids being kidnapped by a crazy bird man clone — This is the kind of thing you’d think people would notice. But you know what I’ve found out? A problem has to get pretty gigantic before anybody notices anything at all. That’s half of heroing. Noticing things.”


3) “You see, Captain America is the ultimate hero – he’s patriotic, strong, the uniform has the red, white and blue. He’d been created to fight actual bad guys in the Second World War,” he says.
“Today I want to show that he’s coming back – this time to fight hate crime.”


Ms. Gupta said that in some cities, hefty fines served as a sort of bureaucratic cover charge for the right to seek justice. People cannot even start the process of defending themselves until they have settled their debts.

“This unconstitutional practice is often framed as a routine administrative matter,” Ms. Gupta wrote. “For example, a motorist who is arrested for driving with a suspended license may be told that the penalty for the citation is $300 and that a court date will be scheduled only upon the completion of a $300 payment.”


“Feldman developed what has since become widely accepted as the definitive measurement of authoritarianism: four simple questions that appear to ask about parenting but are in fact designed to reveal how highly the respondent values hierarchy, order, and conformity over other values.

Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?” (



This is going to sound dumb, but stay with me. I think a fundamental issue in politics is who you’re willing to partner with in order to advance your agenda. You have a vision of what you want your community (or country) to be like, but you can’t make it happen on your own. But the more help you invite, the greater the number of visions that diverge from your own you’ve introduced into the apparatus of effective power/authority- and once you let them in, it’s hard (not to mention ethically questionable) to remove them.
In the specific context of the two leading Democratic presidential candidates, I think supporters of either candidate are perhaps failing to recognize that “the other side” simply has chosen different sources of support. Opposition doesn’t seem to be a matter of virtue so much as it seems to be a matter of doing a poor job picking political allies.


So last night I had a dream that I was at a house party (?) visited by the Dalai Lama (who looked much younger than he actually is and was dressed business casual with like a turquoise button-up shirt, and had a hype man?). He asked what nostalgia is/why some enjoy it.
I said because we are short-lived creatures and so nostalgia is our way of assigning meaning despite the ultimate meaninglessness of our fleeting lives.
The only other answer I remember was the correct one: nostalgia represents an alternate way the present could be playing out, a way more desireable to us than the active moment we’re living in. Obviously, this is a missed opportunity – as the active moment continues to pass you by while you wish it were otherwise, rather than strive to understand the present and accept it as it is.
Post-dream: I think is a useful sentiment (esp in the context of nostalgia, esp in regards to people who may be different from how you remember them), but more broadly speaking I think this is a problematic form of acceptance. You need to want more in order to want to change the situation- and sometimes it is courage rather than acceptance that is required.