magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Hello, liberal friends. We like science? We like science. Let's pour a little science on our conversational tactics.

To all those calling / writing / asking-questions-of-at-town-halls their representatives, this may help if the representative in question is across a party line: How to bridge the political divide with better moral arguments.

(I'm going to summarize and interpret things here, but I Am Not An Expert; I strongly recommend that you listen to the podcast episode, or watch the YouTube video embedded in the page I linked, to hear what the actual experts say.)

It's an episode of the podcast You Are Not So Smart, which tackles topics in the science of self-delusion. The big takeaway of this episode in particular is that the moral values which are important to liberals and conservatives differ in some fairly predictable ways – liberals tend to place more importance on things like equality, fairness, care, and protection, while conservatives tend to place more importance on things like loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority, purity, and sanctity. Because of this, constructing persuasive arguments in one moral vocabulary will fall flat on ears across the political divide.

(If you think, for example, that an argument against same-sex marriage on the basis of the sanctity of marriage has little intrinsic value, consider that gut reaction and place it into the experience of a conservative hearing an argument for same-sex marriage on the basis of equality. You can fuel your argument with as much passion or outrage as you like, and it will remain unconvincing. And if your goal is to convince, rather than to vent passion and outrage, different tactics will prove more effective.)

The other big takeaway: there is a way to frame most arguments using the other side's moral vocabulary.

So, a conservative moral argument against DAPL might appeal to sanctity and purity (we don't want to despoil our native lands; we want to keep our water pure, our lands beautiful), or patriotism and respect for authority (the construction of the pipeline along its intended route violates treaties the US has signed, and as a nation, we want to stand proud behind our stated word). A conservative moral argument against the Muslim ban might appeal to loyalty and patriotism (many of the people turned away at airports are in the United States as doctors, scientists, people whose work benefits the American people).

This is a persuasive tactic. But it may also be an experiment in empathy-building. As important as values like equality and fairness are to liberal communities, and as much as we think it's self-evident that all people should value them, appealing to someone in argument to change their underlying moral framework is unlikely to go very far. (Again, consider what your response would be if a conservative conversation partner launched an impassioned attempt to convince you to supplant your desire for fairness with a desire for sanctity. It might just be a non-starter.) Learning to identify and frame arguments in a conservative moral view can help build coalitions, and coalitions are good.

This will likely not help to build a bridge with anyone whose moral framework is "I serve my own ego and do what I want," but if those people don't listen, build the bridge to the people in a position to vote for or against them. Despite what pain and anger and wounded faith say, the Republican party is not actually one big mob of people who are hateful and spiteful and racist and sexist and evil all the way down to their core. Like any other group, they have their loud bad actors, and they have their people who earnestly value living a moral life. The fact that the morals are different doesn't mean they don't exist, and it doesn't mean that no common ground can ever be found or built upon.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Two links I've found important, recently:

Alexandra Erin ([ profile] alexandraerin) on the uses and means of cultivating calmness.

Mirah Curzer (@mirahcurzer) on How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.

One of the points Curzer brings up is:
You can’t show up to every march and donate to every cause. You can’t write treatises on every issue and argue with every Trump supporter on your Facebook page. If you want to be effective on anything, pick an issue or two that matter most to you and fight for them. Let the others go.

Important caveat: I’m not saying we collectively should pick a few issues and let everything else fall by the wayside. Please don’t confuse me with those saying we have to abandon “identity politics” if we want to make progress on economic inequality (or vice versa). This is advice to individuals, not the party or the movement as a whole.

This bit echoes something a number of friends and I were discussing at dinner, the other day: how we all have different ways in which we can, or will, resist. Some people are extremely skilled at showing up to protests, organizing on the ground, being arrested if necessary. Some are unwilling to risk arrest, but are great at educating about protest first aid, or crowd safety, etc. Some don't have experiences at all with first aid or protests, but are in training to become therapists, or can offer emotional support, or know how to set people back on their feet after dealing with a traumatic experience or a bout of depression. Some people have no clinical experience, but can get stories out, can weave narratives, can engage people with the lives and experiences of others. And we need all these people, and more.

Curzer says:
Don’t forget to play to your strengths. There’s no need to force yourself to do a kind of work that you find unpleasant or boring. If you’re a writer, write articles shedding light on important issues, convincing the other side or rallying your allies to action. If you’re an artist, make art with a conscience. Teachers can bring social justice into your curriculum. Lawyers can volunteer at free legal clinics, write amicus briefs, do pro bono work. Like to argue? Be the one who calls out the sexist comment at a dinner party when everyone else doesn’t know how to react. Love to bake? Bring cookies to activist meetings and homeless shelters. No matter what your passion is, there’s a way to use it for good[...]

Some of the work I'm doing now – now that my intense years-long struggle to get my life back to some semblance of stability is, in fact, resolving into some semblance of stability – is to define the issues I feel most passionate about (in a wide, wide field of issues which arouse passion), and to chart how my skills are going to be deployed in the service of the big Work.

I'm also, now that I have stable income and a few extra dollars in my budget, making decisions about what nonprofits I want to support with ongoing donations. (Ongoing donations do more for nonprofits than single influxes of money: ongoing donations provide a stable financial base on which plans can be made, employees can be hired, etc. But for a long time, my budget wasn't stable enough to consider ongoing donations of any size, so I didn't. One-off donations are better than nothing, but now that I have confidence in my own ongoing income, I want to support other causes as well.) In the same vein, there are too many deserving nonprofits for me to support, all by myself: I'm going to narrow the field down to a few which align with where I want my Work to be.

Frustratingly, I can't actually set up recurring donations for a week or so, because my bank – Simple – is doing complicated things behind the scenes which is resulting in everyone getting issued new cards. I like this bank, and they're doing everything they can to make the transition easy and painless, and I can still use my old card while I'm waiting for the new one, but there's no real point in going to the trouble now to set up several recurring donations which will have to be completely re-set-up in a week's time.

But the state of things will still be dire, a week from now. And I suppose the time between now and then will afford me an opportunity to study and solidify my focus, and keep me from impulsively selecting the first four nonprofits that come to mind.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Waaaaaaaaaaait, that's my name! And that's my hand!

What's going on here.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm selling a number of 3000-word (and potentially longer!) short science fiction/fantasy stories or scenes, inspired by prompts, for $30 each. These funded scenes will become part of the Shared Worlds canon, and the first ten purchased scenes will each be accompanied by a sketch by Oakland-area artist Davin Yant. The purchaser will receive the original sketch on a postcard.

This will raise funds for the Foundations educational system, a San Francisco Bay Area group focused on community-building, personal development, education, and safety within the Alternative Sexuality and Diverse Genders and Sexualities communities.

Read more and purchase a prompt here!

I had a lot of fun with the Shared Worlds prompt call when I did it, and I'm looking forward to what will come from this fundraiser.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I've been memorizing poems, here and there, recently. This one, "Year's End" by Richard Wilbur, seems appropriate to share on the last day of the year.

Farewell, 2015. You've been a strange one. Here's to friendship and good fortune in 2016.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Apropos of not that much, I find myself really curious about reward circuitry in zombie neurology.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Most of my time has been taken up by big personal things which, being personal, I'm not really discussing in an open post. (They're not bad things at all! Just time-consuming. If you can see this post, you can learn more about them... in fits and starts.) But in the cracks of those big time-consuming things, I've gotten a few stories out into the world, and a few stories picked up as reprints.

New Stuff Not Already Announced On This Journal

Read more... )

Stuff Wot's Getting Reprinted In Places

Read more... )

What I'm Working On Now

Read more... )

Anyway, that's more or less the writing state of the An.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Because definitely what I need is more webapp ideas that I don't have time to develop.

Anyway, following on from a Twitter conversation, I'm wondering how it would work to make a writing program which could track the genders of a number of characters and then arbitrarily shuffle them. What I'm picturing is, simplified, something like this:

• At the top of the document are a number of fields which ask for a character name (or a list of character references, such as name and nickname and other variations) and pairs the name with a gender (and its associated set of pronouns).

• Each character you add is arbitrarily assigned a color (or icon or other distinguishing visual marker).

• As you type, a parser will keep track of which name (or referent) has been typed last for each of the original genders. When you type a pronoun, it will look at the last character reference matching that pronoun's set, and highlight the pronoun (or assign it the correct icon) to associate it with the specific character. It'll also have some kind of (mouseover?) menu to allow users to correct its assumption about which character it refers to.

• When you finish writing, each pronoun will be associated with a character. So you can hit a shuffle button, and then the characters' genders will be shuffled, and each pronoun can be brought back into compliance with the character's gender.

Needless to say, this would fail in a lot of situations. Take, for example:

• Dialogue. "He's not coming today," he said. (I mean, I guess I could set up a sub-parser which kept track of the last character reference inside a set of quotes?)

• Ambiguiety. We'll just call this the Randall Munroe exploit. I guess people would just have to make close, personal friends with the drop-down menus?

• Gay porn. I am reliably informed by people who have tried to write gay porn that pronouns are a nightmare anyway. And humans are better at parsing language than computers are.

• Unexpected cases. Language is complicated, yo!

I feel like there should be a way to handle this, and that it probably involves algorithms. I'm a bit worried that trying to write a general-purpose pronoun shuffler would actually require re-inventing Google Translate. Any computational linguists out there who want to point out things I'm missing?
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

Way to prey on my powerful and mostly baseless* dread horror of radiation, Veritasium.

*Not to say that radiation isn't norrifying, but I'm unlikely to be in a situation in my life where it's actually a present danger to me.

Though now I want to write a story (very) loosely inspired by the firefighters at Chernobyl. ;_;
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Somehow, I got into a hole where I just keep listening to songs set to the tune of "A Modern Major-General". I'm pretty sure the Elements Song is to blame:

...but that transitioned quickly into "Every Major's Terrible":

Which I really want to memorize, some day. Well, I want to memorize both of these, really. ("And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium" is too much fun to say. Try it!)

So, I finally decided to look up the actual song, as it's been a long time since I've heard it, and that led me to this video:

And now, despite not remembering enough of the new Star Wars movies to even remember who Grievous is, I want to see fic based on this vid where he and young Obi-Wan are goofy buddy movie partners. Challenging each other to singing and swashbuckling contests.


...I'm sure there's a lesson I could draw out of the Tom Lehrer video; you can see that he stumbles on "molybdenum" a little (and really, wouldn't you?), but he doesn't get hung up on it; he just sweeps it behind him and moves on. Good life lesson. Which I will not be making any more eloquent than that.

And with that, good night.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm not going to get to this right now, and probably won't get to this today, so this is just a note so I remember:

It would be pretty neat to have a calender generator on my fun pages. I.E., it takes a random list (like the Bingo generator), but instead of telling it the dimensions of a bingo card, you tell it a month and year, and it'll generate a calendar of prompts for you.

Advanced options would include turning off certain days (so, setting Sundays to have no prompts, for example), or turning certain days to certain prompts (so, setting Fridays to "wild card" days, or something). Probably not granular "I want the 15th to be this topic, and the 18th to be this topic, and take off the 12th", because at that point you're... not doing random generation any more.

It'd also be really nice to tie the random sets generator into it, like I did with the bingo generator: you can load response sets into it, and get cards like this one. So, you could set up something to generate random sets of a person, in a place, with a problem, and assign each of those to a day. Etc.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] thebonesofferalletters: Writing wise, what do you do to help you get in "the zone"?

Ramit Sethi, the author of the fantastically useful personal finance book I Will Teach You To Be Rich, has this saying: "Would you rather be sexy, or rich?" What he means is, do you want to do all the flashy stuff so you can talk about investing and how your stock performs and things that will impress people at cocktail parties, or do you want the boring but effective stuff that helps you save money and make more money?

I kinda feel like that with a few of these questions. <_< The best way I have to get myself into the writing groove isn't particularly interesting or attractive. I would love to say that having a cup of my favorite tea and a handcrafted playlist for my project and a clean desk and sunlight pouring in the window helps me write, but while those things make me feel great, they don't actually have any correlation to how well I'm able to get myself writing. Instead, the method that most consistently gets me cranking out the words is this:

  1. Close everything on my computer except for iTunes or a (minimized) MyNoise generator, and
  2. Open up my story file.

And I'm not being flippant with #2. I often have a great resistance to starting, so if I sit down and a file isn't open, well, then, path of least resistance says "Meh, no writing today." But if I look at what I'm doing (or... not doing), and open up a file with intent, it's easier to get started.

What I'm doing is setting up micro-barriers to distraction (so, if I want to browse the internet, I have to go and open Firefox or whatever), and removing micro-barriers to writing (the page is right there, and I can't command-tab to any other open program). The effect is a bit like settling your wagon wheels into a well-worn groove in the path. It's easier to go forward than it is to change direction. I guess it's even easier just to sit there and do nothing, but doing nothing is awfully boring, so I usually end up writing instead.

The secret third thing I do to get myself into the writing flow – which I need to get back into the habit of doing – is: Write every day.

I was writing 800 words a day in October, planning to write 900 a day in November and 1,000 a day in December, but November knocked me out of it, so I'm thinking of starting back at 500 a day in January and increasing by 100 a day every month. And what happens when you write every day is that you learn to write every day. You sit down in front of the page and your brain starts going "Oh. Right, I know what to do, here." And so, while there are still easier days and harder days, the overall level of difficulty goes down over time.

But for the longest time before I was cranking out most of one K (and sometimes much more than that), I was doing... 20 words a day. That was the minimum, and once I hit that, I had a deal with myself that I would celebrate that achievement. I wasn't allowed to badmouth it. I couldn't say "Well, that was only 20 words, that was pathetic." And hose 20 words could be on anything – they didn't have to be on the project I was currently working on. They could be 20 words of stream-of-consciousness, or story seed, or anything. I just had to get 20 words out.

And it's hard to be intimidated by 20 words. (Like it's hard to be intimidated by one minute of meditation.) But those 20 words were the Trojan horse of a habit; once I got used to doing 20 words a day, I was used to sitting down and writing every day. And getting started is so often the hardest part, that that 20 word habit was a major victory.

It's a lot easier to grow a small habit than it is to institute a giant habit. That's why so many New Year's resolutions fail: people go "I'm going to get in shape this year so I'm going to go to the gym five times a week and run a mile every day before work!", and that's just too much if you're trying to go from a sedentary lifestyle to that. It's a shock to the system, and you get overwhelmed, and you drop the habit. (When I was walking a mile every day, I had grown that habit from a habit that just said: Go outside every day. Walk to the end of the block and back. And once I was in the habit of walking to the end of the block and back, around the block wasn't a big deal. Once I was walking around the block, around two blocks wasn't a big deal. And so it grew.)

So, that's my writing process secret! A bunch of really tiny and somewhat pedestrian things. But they work for me, so.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] thebonesofferalletters: What do you consider the most important thing you do that falls under self care?

(Content warning for examples of negative self-talk.)

By far, by far the most important thing I have ever done for myself in terms of mental health is to practice employing techniques of cognitive behavioral therapy.

I like to cognize. )

It's all a skill, and I'm still practicing and getting better at it. But I notice that my mental health tends to soar when I'm actively practicing this, and dip back down when I'm not.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
San Francisco is a mess. Possibly this is the Midwestern kid in me talking, but I've never really felt like I have a sense of the city itself. There's too much going on – and not in the sense of the human bustle of the streets, though there's that too. (Though I've never felt more overwhelmed in the crowds of San Francisco than I have on campus in Iowa City when school is going on.) It's more that I don't have a sense of the city-as-entity, the unified sense of place and identity I have in a place like Lincoln or IC, where the quality (as in qualitative, not as in value) of the neighborhoods changes, but gradually, and there's still something somehow recognizable about each one and all of them together.

Now, a Bay Area native might have more of a sense of the City; I don't know. But since I got here it's been a jumble to me, like neither the city nor its inhabitants are sure what it's meant to be. There's the ridiculous wealth disparity, for one thing; people might pay $6000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in this place where there are 6,000 homeless in a 47 square mile city. And there's the density and diversity in the neighborhoods: pick a palce, go two blocks over and it seems like odds are the entire characteristic of the city changes around you. And this can be a really neat thing. But it adds to my sense of displacement.

I love a lot of the stuff in San Francisco. The shops, the restaurants, the resources. Noisebridge and Alchemy and Paxton Gate and Frijtz and El Farolito and, and. But for the most part I don't grok why people want to live here. Compared to Lincoln, say, the streets are dirty. Cracked in a lot of places. The area feels more compressed, everyone pressed in by the water on three sides and no room to expand south, by the buildings which are shoulder-to-shoulder, holding each other up. (A friend mentioned that you could tell the rich people's houses because there was space between them.) Places have yards, but just about every ward I've seen has been because I was invited into someone's house – they're behind walls, or cradled as backyards between rows of houses which only show their faces to the street. Murals seem to pop up in place of green growing things – and some of the murals are quite lovely. People seem to have less respect for the immediate environment – not the big Green-energy stuff, not the recycling, but the everyday litter-on-the-sidewalks cigarette-butts-on-the-streets thing. I'm not uncomfortable walking down the streets, but I've never preciselt been comfortable either.

And the infrastructure doesn't add anything to my sense of stability. Three inches of rain on Thursday knocked out power to what seemed like half the city. I fully expect that if the city saw a flake of snow, it'd all shut down. They seem to be pretty well prepared for earthquakes, but coming from the Midwest, the SF attitude toward weather events seems bizarre to me. (Though, in fairness, I imagine that if a big quake hit the Midwest, that'd be an out-of-context problem there, too...)

But. Today, staying in a place just off Mission Street, I went wandering to get a cheap umbrella for the ongoing rain. And on 18th street with the jumble of Mission shops in front of me I passed a guy in a yellow rainjacket, wandering down the sidewalk with an umbrella open in one hand and a burger in the other, chewing away as he walked. And I cannot tell you what it was, exactly, about that scene, but I fell in love with San Francisco. Just a little. But there was some qualia there – in the light, in the guy's distraction, in the adapted chaos of the shops, in his effortless adaption to the city environment – that hit me right.

I'm on an Amtrak back down south in a couple of hours. And I'm not sure I'll miss the city, really. But there's so much about the city I will miss.

And maybe it's just my propensity to fall a little bit in love with everything this past week or so, but I'm beginning to catch glimpses of why people love this city. I don't think it'll ever be my city, but I'm beginning to understand the people for whom it is.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
[personal profile] noctiluca: What draws you to Minecraft? (Okay, so this is more like, "Jei is considering getting into this game b/c so many teens are obsessed with it, but is skeptical and thus dragging eir feet" and so FEEL EVEN FREER TO DISREGARD THIS than any other question.)

OH MINECRAFT, MY GAMING LOVE. There will be a lot of YouTube links in this post. And also, just a lot of links in this post.

...okay. I should qualify this by saying that these days, I hardly ever play vanilla Minecraft unless I manage to set up a server with other people. I still find social playing a lot of fun, but I'm not huge on giant complicated redstone or huge epic builds, so the game has limited replayability for me. Not to say that I didn't lose, like, eight months to the game when I first got it, and not to say I don't still play it a whole bunch now. My style of Minecraft engagement has just changed.


If you get Minecraft, we should totally meet up on Mineplex and play Sheep Quest or something. Or you could set up a server and we could rock out and slay zombies together.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I need to keel over and go to sleep soon, so I'll answer a couple of short questions.

[personal profile] thebaconfat: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer (that you didn't create yourself)?

...I am not sure I can answer this! I don't keep track of that many files I haven't created, as I assume that most of them are things like application config files and stuff. If stuff I've downloaded doesn't count as stuff I've created, I... still am not sure. But I do have a version of "Down Under" sung by a bunch of potentially-drunk Russians.

[personal profile] squeemu: What is the weirdest file currently on your computer that you did create?

I once discovered a file named temp.rtf in one of my fiction draft folders which consisted of 2391 words of Lorem Ipsum, closed with the line "And as it turned out, THEY WERE ALL BEES!!"

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I am feeling (perhaps unwisely) confident in my ability to get (non-fiction) stuff done! So I think I'll do a modified version of the December Days Posting Meme, modified on [personal profile] sholio's post:

no dates, no specific commitments to respond (that is, you may or may not get an answer), but ...

... is there anything you want to ask me about? Anything you'd like me to talk about in a post? [...]if there is anything you'd like me to talk about, feel free to prompt me and maybe I'll make a post about it. :)

Fandom stuff will go on [personal profile] magibrain, other stuff will go on [personal profile] magistrate. I reserve the right not to answer anything, but, y'know.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I'm snowed in under a ton of stuff that needs to get done, but I have a six-hour Amtrak ride tomorrow and the train has wifi, so hopefully I'll be able to get off most (if not all) ( least some) of the correspondence and commenting I have due. I'm at the point tonight where it's moderately miraculous that I'm still upright.

Which probably isn't the best time to be nesting in things that make me choke up under non-completely-exhausted circumstances, but I never claimed to be wise.

In any case, here are things that would make me cry if I had more human emotions:

If you do not get choked up about space, what are you even doing here? :P )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I mentioned this over at [community profile] allbingo, but I'm working on a bunch of challenges to get me thinking about short-form plot. Basically, I'm taking the following plot structures:

Four structures below the cut. )

...three of which I found discussed at Philip Brewer's blog, and one of which I put together after thinking about successful short stories on my own.

I'm trying to take these structures and write extremely short stories/synopses with them – using one sentence for each point in the list.

I'm also finding it surprisingly difficult.

But I figured that while I was striving and trying new things, I might as well put the results up for people to see (and quite possibly best :P ). Just to keep things organized in this post, the card I'm using is below, and I'll link my fills for the squares.

Card below the cut. )


magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

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