Assorted Articles (Apr-Jul 2015)


I am very encouraged by what some of my friends are posting here – the focus is shifting to what people are already doing to help rebuild, and where you can go to contribute to the efforts yourself. I’m sure the finger-pointing will continue, and those with personal and political agendas that can be furthered by whatever angle they need to take will continue to do so. And I know the focus will shift again soon, but for today it’s good to be reminded that “the helpers” are in Baltimore too.


And to actually be helpful about it:



More on what we can do to help Baltimore



The National Guard was called in to Baltimore Monday. Additionally, as of the last time I checked, a curfew of 10pm-5am has been imposed in Baltimore City until Monday, May 4th.

I have no right to speak about what’s going on in Baltimore, for a number of reasons. But the people I’ve talked to about it privately so far have been very quick to understand why it deserves more of their attention so I’m hoping I can add value by bringing that recognition to scale a bit here. I’m not looking to change anyone’s minds, I’m only asking you to give me just *four more sentences of your attention* and *apply your mind with earnestness* as you move forward:

I will repeat (because it’s a pretty big fucking deal): the National Guard was called in to Baltimore Monday and a weeklong 10pm curfew is in effect.

It’s very hard to get a handle on what real people are actually experiencing and what that means when you are not living in the city yourself, even when reading/watching a lot and doing so skeptically, but you really have to try to do more than merely consume the information and come to a judgment about it based on your existing presuppositions.

I’m not trying to tell you something you don’t already know – I’m just trying to get you appreciate the full magnitude of what you already do.

I know I’m being overly general, but any examples I offer in an attempt to be more specific and coherent—despite my best effort—will still represent my own agenda, and the whole point of this is to call attention to how much effort it takes to be a responsible citizen and see past all of that and get at what challenges your fellow human beings are actually struggling with and what implications that has for the way you live your life (rather than merely identifying what messages are being promoted and agreeing or disagreeing with them and leaving your moral and civic responsibility at that).

EDIT: I mistakenly posted that the city gov’t was closed. Double-check your sources.


Because being more specific may be necessary to be intelligible:

I’m talking about the police, the kids who needed to be connected with alternate sources of food because their normal provider–their schools—were closed (there’s my agenda creeping in), the rioters, the oppressed who did not riot (how long and how earnestly will we listen to them? – sorry, this is why I tried to stay general), the businesses impacted by the curfew, the gangs, the community organizers, the local journalists, scared citizens who just want to feel safe, proud Baltimoreans who are ashamed of what image the rest of the country must have of them, those who came together to clean up, those who sang or danced or skated or otherwise assembled peaceably together as a sign of solidarity, and too many more – plus the FAMILIES of those and any others you can name.

I promise you you can relate to what’s happening in Baltimore- but I understand if you are afraid of what you might learn about yourself and how you’ve contributed to any conceivable remedy to the situation if you engage it too sincerely.

Until this past week, addressing social issues with a real intent to impact them have felt to me like research with intent to cure a terminal illness—no one would ever dispute that it was a good idea, but unless your life is personally touched by it (e.g. losing a relative or friend), you probably aren’t going to do more than lip service to support the effort yourself.

I don’t mean to imply that destruction and suffering in the weeks and years prior to Baltimore this past week are in any way less important than the more recent events in Baltimore, but I suspect that by focusing on the events in Baltimore since Saturday you will have the easiest time realizing that you haven’t been paying close enough attention to the state of affairs and that the solution cannot entail going back to your daily routine with cynical inaction or blindness.

I will include as a reply comment to this status a collection of media that I found helpful for myself in the last 48 hours or so, but don’t succumb to my agenda either (not from what I’ve said here and not from what materials I choose to include vs. not).


Some media to get you started on your own explorations

Coaxing a message out of someone (first one is most obvious):……/baltimore-protester…
and around 1.48 in here:…/baltimore-mom-to-see-my-son…/ they successfully nudge their interview subject (this is the “hero mom” of the viral video you’ve probably seen)

Attitudes towards family discipline

more on the story about the “hero mom”…/posts/10152887062325698
and the police commissioner’s “we need more of that” remark:…/mom-of-the-year-baltimore-woman…/

Calling for rioters to “go home”

Ray Lewis:
a prominent, already oft-cited article:…/nonviolence-as…/391640/

Deeper issues

Advice to white friends…/posts/10206631233202130
in a similar vein:…/you-have-privilege…

A different perspective for those who weep for Baltimore

Joseph Kent violated curfew; many now ask “where is joseph kent?”…/joseph-kent-baltimore-arrest-cnn…/

in a similar vein:
Here’s the deal-my son’s friend Geremy Faulkner has been in city lockup since late yesterday afternoon. He is an 18 year old black man. He did not throw rocks, etc. He did not loot. He was not among the mob. What he did do was post photos to instagram of what was happening at mondawmin yesterday and it pissed off the police so they hauled him in with others. wrong place at the wrong time but what’s not cool is that he’s still in lockup, has not been fed in 24+hours and no one is saying when he’ll have a hearing or get out in spite ofStephen Nunns’ efforts there in person . please repost to social media @Baltimore Police @baltimoresun lprobsbly others being held unfairly etc

UPDATES ON THIS ASPECT (I’m not going to update everything here, but the tone of the situation changes significantly with these updates so I feel somewhat obligated to post these):…/bcpnews-local-activist…

Many believe it was not in fact outside agitators who initiated the violence…

Gang members requested an interview to among other things respond to a memo from police about a credible threat of gangs forming a truce in order to harm cops…/gang-members-we-did…/32609810…

Mondawmin Mall (whether deliberate or accidental, many accounts suggest the police presence coupled with lack of transportation out incited the exchange of stones and bricks between police and young people)…/how-baltimore-riots-began…

Police and journalists telling different stories…/watch-the-baltimore…

Solidarity (there’s A LOT more of this, just dig a little)…/another-side-of-the-baltimore……/bal-looting-scene-becomes…

For baseball fans
empty ballpark:…/bal-baltimore-orioles…
what some found to be a shocking remark from the COO of the Orioles:…/orioles-john-angelos…

here’s aggregations of tweets, images and videos:






Is it the response to police brutality or the removal of the Confederate flag that makes racists feel provoked? What am I missing here? 1) I understand and appreciate the significance of destroying symbols – but why are these churches so threatening as symbols that they must be destroyed? Is it as simple as “you took our symbol away so we’re taking yours away”? Is it “since we lost our symbol we need to compensate with actions to serve as symbols” – if so, that’s a pretty strong indictment of what that flag stood for…. 2) These churches are also more than symbols – it’s a problem when things that should be more important are made less so in the name of advancing a message/cause. I may have phrased that haughtily but I don’t think that’s a very academic distinction to make. 3) Having community members (or allies from outside) take turns standing guard might be a good show of solidarity here.


There’s an article floating around FB, looking at the number of black churches burned during the Freedom Summer compared to this year. Definitely some corollaries; backlash.


Please pay attention to problems, and don’t let yourself get distracted. That’s the most important thing I have to say.

What I will ALSO say is this: watching the Sandra Bland dashcam video was horrifying and disgusting. I’m not looking to argue about what happened off camera or whether the footage was edited or what happened in jail. Not that all of that is not important, only that I’d like to focus on one other thing first and foremost.

Do yourself a favor and watch the video – if you get bored, skip to about 8 minutes in when the officer returns to give her a ticket (I think it was even a warning). It’ll take approximately 2 minutes for the situation to escalate to the officer pointing an electroshock weapon at her head and forcibly removing her from her vehicle.

Maybe she looked upset. Maybe the officer was concerned about traffic. What is painfully clear in this video is that Sandra Bland was not going to comply with the officer’s demand to step out of her vehicle without the officer offering something more than the mere assertion of his authority.

I don’t smoke cigarettes, but otherwise I could easily see myself in her position. I’m probably too ill-informed about my rights and too much of a coward to put up as much of a reasoned fight as she did, but holy shit watching that situation unfold over two minutes illuminates a problem.

Don’t look away from it. Don’t walk past it. Don’t forget it. Do pay attention, and speak up when you see a problem. Maybe ultimately that won’t make a difference, but staying silent sure as hell won’t make it better.




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: 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.