Archive for July, 2019

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Wonder Wednesday

July 31, 2019

Sometimes, one can only jam along to the glory that is before them:

Yes, the masterpiece that was 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12, officially titled the Pinball Number Count, debuting on Sesame Street in 1977.  Sung by none other than the Pointer Sisters (!) in a delightful funk/jazz/Caribbean melange.  Accompanied by wild visuals with fun themes.  And featuring sequence number 8 (titled Forest Follies) that ends with the best delivery of an “eight” ever recorded.

Great stuff.  It’ll be stuck in your head now* for the rest of the day, and that’s a good thing!

 

(When I used to teach at my previous job, if the class was getting a bit listless I would begin singing the tune and trail off starting around 6… never did it fail that at least a few people would carry the song all the way to 12.)

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 30, 2019

Especially in the realm of “problem solving” or “invention” or “towards a more perfect”, there is a distinction, a difference, between doing something less bad and doing something that is a good.

This can be a tricky thing to wrap our brains around.  Because certainly fixing something has to be good, right?

Well, yes/no.  It’s similar to the conversation around efficiency.  Often when we see something that produces something we want, yet has these drawbacks*, we fixate on those drawbacks and limit our plan of attack to reducing them.  It is evolutionary design and problem solving.  “If I can get it to emit 10% less toxics, then that’s better!”

So we work, and work some more, and boom, we’ve gotten something that produces 15% less badness.  Hooray!  We dance, and celebrate, and then miss the point that the thing/system/machine/process/etc is still producing plenty of badness.  Badness is still there.

We also often forget that nothing is inherent.  Just because something is a certain way, doesn’t mean it is meant to be that way.

Instead, we can return to the primordial.  Design from first principles.  Create with intention.  And invent something that delivers a good on all fronts.  Something that not only produces what we want but may even produce extra of the things we’d want.

This is how we get a house built in the harsh desert that don’t just use 10, 15, or even 30% less energy for air conditioning by making it more ‘efficient’, making it less bad.  From our glorious spirited wellspring, we craft and get a house that, through good design, uses 100% less energy for AC even in the hottest of days, while at the same time being a more gorgeous house to live in.

This is revolutionary or primordial design.  It is not less bad.  It is a good.

When we cut ourselves, we put on a bandage.  Emergency problem solving is going to be limited in that way.  And we should absolutely do it!  Bleeding is no good.  But if we cut ourselves continually in the same manner, getting or creating better bandages is not the best way forward.  The less bad way still ends up hurting.

Returning to the source to chart a new course lets us avoid the knife and create many a good thing along the way.

 

 

* Which in of itself can take work to become aware and present that there are drawbacks, and even then to get over resisting or downplaying or ignoring the drawbacks because we get caught up in a false dichotomy that says we have to abandon the thing** entirely to avoid the drawback.

** We can also get caught up in the notion that the thing is the best, or even only, way to deliver that result.  The only way to have fun.  The only way to generate income.  The best way to transport our bodies.  By coming again from the primordial, designing by intention, we often create something that is not only a good instead of less bad, but the end result/product is even better than it was before, a better we never knew or could imagine existed, and would never had seen had we stuck with the same old, just less bad.

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Architecture Monday

July 29, 2019

The frame’s the thing with this house, and what a frame it is.  Two interlocking forms of striking, angled, black wood, each splaying at their ends to create covered porches.  One is tall and sits on the ground, while the other is long and narrow and seems to float above the ground as it pierces through the first.

Inside, the piercing form is clear and serves to delineate spaces even as your eye is drawn towards the windows that border the covered porch.

Nifty design.  Sleeve House by actual / office.

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Philosophical Humour Sunday

July 28, 2019

I doubt very much this is an actual Chinese proverb… but I am in total agreement with the sentiment being expressed!

 

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Gaming Thursday: how2RP part 3

July 25, 2019

I’ve come across a sentiment lately (like this post on twitter, very much worth a read) that seems to be pointing to a view that is taking hold within the tabletop RPG community that there’s one right, or real, way to roleplay, and that is in a first person manner.

I do not subscribe to that sentiment.  To riff off the answer given in the twitter post above and to expand on this post of mine from a few years ago, I would instead invite this:

To roleplay is to direct the actions of your character such that they are appropriate to that person existing within, reacting to what’s happening within, and from the viewpoint and mind of that person within the fictional world.  In other words, you are ‘being’ this other person in this other world.  That’s the RP.

The how of it is not what makes good (or real, or true) RP versus not.  First person, third person, or switching between the two, doesn’t matter.  Detailing every minutia of an action or speaking in generalities, doesn’t matter.  The way the character is expressed at the table is not the important part – so long as the character is being expressed in a clear way, the specific method of it should not matter.

And I say this coming from a place of being very much a “method actor” when I RP.  I get subsumed within my characters when I play: my demeanor changes, I speak as would my character*, I gesticulate as would my character, and even my thinking patterns change to match the character.  When I describe actions (if not directly acting them out), I do so with plenty of “I do this” type statements.

I play this way because I enjoy it.  And I love interacting with others who RP in the same vein.  But I also won’t deny anyone who plays with a different style.  “Galen speaks to the queen about their shared past, reminding her of the time they forged a cunning gambit to win the Quadathalon Cup, and the sense of honour we felt that day” is just as valid to RP as saying “Remember, my queen, when we were caught up in pursuit of the Quadathalon Cup?  How the winds blew most foul that day, and we knew that should either one of us lose, the neighboring lord would… (proceed to wax poetic for five more minutes).”  They’re creating and expressing the same thing.

Not everyone feels comfortable to extemporaneously play their characters in the first person.  Others may have no interest in doing so.  Some want to but aren’t ready yet.  And sometimes even I am just not feeling it that day and choose to go third person.  It’s all good.  So long as the character is present (evidenced by acting and interacting appropriate to the fictional person being portrayed) then RP is present.

It’s wonderful that RPGs are flourishing right now, with scores and scores of new players coming into the hobby.  Everyone joins with different levels of experience, different personalities, and even different interests in what the games can provide for them.  It can be tough to get into the headspace of someone else, let alone a fictional character, and doubly let alone having to act like the person at the same time.  Letting everyone RP as they’re feeling it and comfortable gives the greatest freedom to develop that key ingredient.  No matter the how, being a character and weaving the shared story is what makes these games so magical.

 

* I once was playing in a game where my character didn’t have a good grasp on the local language, so I was speaking in very clipped and non-properly formatted English.  Midway through the game, I asked the GM a question, who proceeded to look at me like I had three heads.  “Do you realize what you just did?” they asked.  “No…”  “You just spoke to me, asking a game question, just like your character’s been speaking.”  “Oh!  Really?”  Apparently so!  And I didn’t mean to do that, and didn’t even realize I’d done it.  When I say I become enmeshed with my character, it goes that far…

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Wonder Wednesday

July 24, 2019

From tranquility laced with danger, crammed into a can yet without the comfort of gravity, with no time left to your own devices, yet yearning, aching, needing to share this amazing new vista with everyone, a beauty beyond compare.

Alexei Leonov was not only the first person to walk in space, but also the first to draw in space, this sketch of a sunrise unlike any other:

Using the simplest of media, modified by the most hack of hacks (elastic bands FTW), with those strong strokes it evokes all the wonder and power of that sight.  Love it.

Read more about it in this article by the Guardian and compliment it with this great video by the Art Assignment.

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Philosophy Tuesday

July 23, 2019

There is a distinction, a difference, between being skeptical, and being cynical.

And yes, it is very easy to collapse the two.  However, while the former can definitively slide to morph into the other, they are not the same.

Being skeptical is engaging our thinking muscles as we engage with life.  Indeed, the roots of the word comes from a Greek word meaning “questioning” or “thoughtful”.  It is to enter situations with trust and empathy and listening while keeping our awareness peaked and mindfulness engaged.  We seek to learn and to see clearly.*

Cynicism is to enter into situations already believing the worst of someone or something.  Rather than being open to truth and truths, the cynic knows the truth, and it is the cold, hard, truth.  And in that world there is no engagement, and no need for thinking muscles – there’s no point.  The truth is already known.

Being skeptical is to keep an open mind (for we can be, and it is very powerful to be, skeptical of our own reasons and views**).  We can balance our levels of skepticism with our levels of connection and trust.  We can be deliberate and whole (not falling into the depths of Descartes-ism) in our choices.  Skepticism walks along the middle path.

Cynicism has already shut the door, believing the worst of people or of outcomes.  It is immediate.  In the realm of cynicism there is no possibility; only, at best, survival.

 

* It likely goes without saying being skeptical takes work insofar as maintaining a practice of mindfulness takes work.  Cynicism is very easy, quick, and can even feel safe, even as it boxes one in to narrower and narrower confines, and where one’s baseline experience of life becomes most unpleasant.

** The very underpinning of a transformation is the shift to a new view that seems unfathomable and darn right unreasonable under our old view.  It is a jump to a new you.