Artifacts of Power

Artifacts of Power

1. Here’s a plot synopsis for a high fantasy short story. Protagonist: Karnaca, the young warrior princess of her city-state home of Dothrak Dothrak is beset by constant strife, sieges from without, and attempted coups from within. Her aging father seems powerless to stem the tide of decay. Karnaca wants peace and prosperity, to see her home shine as a center of learning and commerce as it did in mythic ages. So she sets out on her adventure, seeking the fabled Sword of Balance. The sword was forged in the ancient second age, by a powerful wizard lost to time....

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Guilt, Shame, White Privilege

Guilt, Shame, White Privilege

Pete: I love that “white middle-class complex” thing going on at Hacker News. Jovan: Tell me about it, I don’t get it. Where does it stem from? Pete: They are a bunch of emotionally stunted, white, middle class geeks I guess. They want everything to work like software, but it doesn’t. And they want to generalize everyone as themselves+delta, when they aren’t. Jovan: Hah. Don’t tell me you got pulled into that shit too. Pete: What do you mean? Jovan: You realize their arguments revolve around how you and I are privileged because we’re a) white, b) middle-class, c) in...

Keep your Baggage Light

Keep your Baggage Light

Carlos came to me the other day very upset. He’s in his mid 20s, and he’s about to be engaged to his beautiful girlfriend who he loves very much. He’s always been straight, except… you know where this is going. He met Zeb a few weeks ago, and Carlos can’t get Zeb off his mind. Carlos is intensely attracted to him, romantically and sexually. Carlos’ question is: what does it mean? Am I gay and I just didn’t know? 2. Imagine you live in the world were only sneakers and sandals exist. People for whatever reasons tend to just wear...

Man Over Gremlins

Man Over Gremlins

Continued from Zombie Gremlins Here’s a game of Zombie Gremlin Ping Pong, the proverbial echo chamber I mentioned the previous essay, played out over the course of thousands of years: Master Morality Strongmen like Genghis Khan run roughshod over the known world. No one can stop him, his men have the best lives and most reproductive success. I hear 5% of the modern world population can trace their ancestry back to him. The traits that make him and his army successful: strength, cunning, ruthlessness—all become virtues. The mythology of those cultures have pantheons of powerful, petty gods doing as they...

Zombie Gremlins

Zombie Gremlins

Continued from Gremlins of Belief I knew a goth girl in college. She identified as Wiccan, which basically means she worshipped “The Goddess,” nature. She had grown up a Jehovah’s Witness, and when she left her parents’ house, she saw the error of their beliefs, and she became Wiccan. There is a mirror image version of the Gremlin Fallacy. Instead of continuing to believe something that’s been fundamentally subverted by new information, you stop believing in something in favor of a different thing that does not fundamentally subvert the original belief. You thought you killed the gremlin, but you actually...

Gremlins of Belief

Gremlins of Belief

Tortoise: This watch works because tiny, invisible gremlins are pushing the hands. Hare: No, the watch works because a battery is powering a motor, that drives some gears that are attached to the hands. Tortoise: Ah, I see the machinery, clearly. The gremlins must be using the machinery to drive the hands for them! We know that’s not true though. The machinery obviates the need for gremlins—the machinery fundamentally subverts the premise of the gremlins. Tortoise would never have considered the gremlins if she had known about the machinery first. Tortoise is attached to the gremlin hypothesis, maybe because she...

The Gridlock of Identity

The Gridlock of Identity

You can’t kill him because you’re a good person. You can’t doubt him because you’re a person of faith. You can’t let him pay for your dinner because you’re a feminist. Even though you really want to. What would it mean if you killed, doubted, let him pay? You wouldn’t be who you are. It’s easy when you’re a good person who is not killing people. That’s not likely to cause conflict in your life. It’s hard when you’re a faithful person who is gay. These are identity level beliefs, and they are likely the source of all your problems....

The Life of Aaron Swartz

The Life of Aaron Swartz

If you’re not a geek you may not have heard who Aaron Swartz is, or that he recently killed himself. If you are a geek, you haven’t heard much else since it happened a few days ago. Most the blogosphere is alive talking about his death. I want to talk about his life. Aaron was a very smart geek. He won the DemandProgress.org. The list goes on, he was a stud. He killed himself when he was 26 years old. The news hit me harder than I expected. I didn’t know him personally, but I did read his blog when...

The Herd and Changing the World

The Herd and Changing the World

I’m forced to listen to pop music almost everyday thanks to the predictable tastes of the 13 year old girl I live with. The thing about pop music is that it’s palatable in the same sense candy is palatable. Most people love candy because it stimulates our animal brains; I don’t like candy that much, but it’s difficult to find candy that’s actively disgusting. That candy contains no nutritional value is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter that you want people to like apples instead. Candy is palatable and gives them a jolt of good feeling, therefore it’s a huge industry. Pop...

Birth Defects and Superpowers

Birth Defects and Superpowers

Nate has a secret birth defect that seriously impacts his life. He’s lived in fear of being found out since he was a preteen, and it preoccupies his mind when he’s with his girlfriend. He was with that girlfriend of his for two and a half years before finally working up the nerve to tell her about his issue because he was afraid he would lose her when she found out his dark secret. One night Nate swallowed the lump in his throat, and practically through tears, he said he had a confession. That before they have sex, she should...

When the World Ends

When the World Ends

The world ending today on December 21st, 2012 reminds me of one of my favorite songs, called “H.” Western culture is steeped in Abrahamic cosmology, and one fundamental difference between the universe of God, the Father, and that of say, Brahman or Buddha, is that it only flows one direction. God created the things, the things did stuff, then God came back and everyone died or lived forever or whatever. That’s a fairly unusual perspective in the context of other world religions, who mostly go with the cyclical rebirth of the world. So it’s no surprise that when a bunch...

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