“Use This List”

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

The Ancient Gaming Noob has a post up today breaking down all things RSS. I agree with his opinions.

In particular, I agree with using something like Feedly. Ever since Feedly first hit the app store back before I was an Android fanboy and owned at least one Apple product, I have been obsessed with using it. Feedly is my daily driver for all things from my favorite sites.

I especially like Feedly (or some of the other options he outlines in his post) for keeping track of blogs. With so many great ones to read, it can be hard to keep track of when new content comes out. Sure, you can follow your favorite writers on Twitter (and you should), but Twitter never stops and unless you maintain your organization, you may miss some great content.

I recommend checking out The Ancient Gaming Noob’s post from today. It also points out his extensive lists of all the blogs our in our loose knit online community that are worth checking out!

NPR’s 200 Greatest Songs By 21st Century Women

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

Less time to write a complete post today, so I thought I would share a link instead.

Late last month, NPR Music posted a top 200 list of women performers from the last 18 years. As always from NPR Music, they have great taste. I am stunned by the number of songs and artists I had never heard of but am so grateful to be exposed to now.

I haven’t finished reviewing it all yet, but check it out and let me know if you find anything new to add to your playlist!

Roleplaying An Alien in D&D

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

I enjoy imagining new D&D characters to try. Recently, I have wanted to try the Horizon Walker subclass for the Ranger in 5th Edition’s Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have always loved the planes, so multiverse Legolas sounds fantastic.

From the guide:

Horizon Walkers guard the world against threats that originate from other planes or that seek to ravage the mortal realm with otherworldly magic. They seek out planar portals and keep watch over them, venturing to the Inner Planes and the Outer Planes as needed to pursue their foes. These rangers are also friends to any forces in the multiverse — especially benevolent dragons, fey, and elementals — that work to preserve life and the order of the planes.

We aren’t starting a plane-based campaign anytime soon, so all the characters I have been thinking of lately have to have local reasons for taking local actions. However, that does not mean they have to be local characters.

I am imagining a faction of Horizon Walkers that operate primarily in the planes themselves, only visiting mortal realms to infiltrate various cults before they can open up portals or rifts. Sort of like a team of Doctor Whos or time cops, though maybe with a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy thrown in to the mix too.

Our next campaign will take place in the Forgotten Realms, but I thought this faction would be a wonderful excuse to play a Changeling, a race native and limited to the Eberron setting, in the Forgotten Realms. Changelings are known for having to the ability to change their appearance to other humanoids and their base form looks like a fantasy version of a stereotypical science fiction alien.

At an early age, this faction (I am calling them the Greeters until I think of something else), stopped a breach in Eberron, found an orphaned Changeling, and thought they could train him up to be their master spy for infiltrating cults on other worlds.

Unfortunately, despite having an amazing ability to mimic others, my Changeling is terrible at roleplaying. Unless given an exact script, he doesn’t do well with improving his way through a cult to actually function as a spy.

Still, he is a decent soldier.

He was recently left abandoned in the Forgotten Realms along with another rookie to infiltrate a cult. It was intended to be a training exercise for the two younger members. Unfortunately, it goes south quickly and he ends up losing his partner and is limited/too rage blind to find a way to inform or request the assistance of the other Greeters still off-world.*

*This origin is subject to revision depending on campaign specific details.

Stuck in a world he barely knows or understands, he is about as alien as it is possible to be in a fantasy setting. Better yet, people do not believe he is an alien since his strange appearance, strange customs, and strange knowledge seem acceptable in a world filled with so much magic and mystery already.

It plays loose and fast with D&D metaphysics and is a bit meta (I am not that great at roleplaying either), but there are a lot of great alien tropes in science fiction that I think would be enjoyable to adapt to a strictly fantasy setting, especially when you are unique yet cannot convince anyone else of that fact.

If I do end up playing this character, then maybe I could do a series of “Mission Log” blog posts summarizing our adventures!


This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

I am a little at a loss for words today. It has been a stressful week and I have an interview tomorrow.

Instead of forcing a post I later regret, feel free to use this opportunity to ask me any questions. Do you have a follow-up thought to something I tweeted or wrote? Something else you have always wanted to ask?

I will do my best to reply as soon as possible!

Massive Nostalgia Vol. 167: Downtime

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

Since I deleted most of my old content, I am starting in media res with my volume numbering here. You have not missed volumes 1-166.

I remember in the third grade (ages 8-9 for non-Americans), we had a pen pal project. Now, I recall nothing about whom my pen pal was nor do I have any way of proving that a small southern town had contacts anywhere abroad, but these are the truths my mind has decided are facts.

I do recall it being a profound experience to realize that I could send a letter across the world and receive something back in a relatively short time. It was a moment that simultaneously made the world smaller and larger for my impressionable mind.

Similarly, I remember playing Ultima Online a few years later and marveling at how I could play with people all over the world inside a video game. Of course, with Ultima Online, you had to meet in person in-game to speak since there were no /tell or /whisper commands. There was a magic in-game telephone but it was rarely convenient.

Playing MMOs in the last several years and especially World of Warcraft in the last several weeks, I miss having the downtime to just talk to strangers. Sure, it caused me anxiety to talk to people online and not everyone was nice or worth talking to, but I made some really cool in-game friends that way.

Like pen pals and mailing letters, the notion of downtime itself seems quaint. Why force players to wait? Why give them nothing more to do than to talk to one another anymore? Instead, give them queues and quests and quick generating resources and graveyards with minimal walking and the list goes on.

It is probably for the better that we have less downtime. I don’t have to wait for a rarespawn to pop or waste most of my free time finding a group. Still, I miss the slower pace and the thought/time I could put into just occupying a digital space with others. I miss being amazed that my handwriting and my little piece of paper could make it around the world and back again too.

I refuse to say things were better or that we need to go back. That’s just an old man (in MMORPG years, at least) yelling about the good ole days.

But like so many old men, I am allowed to miss my youth where things were better and wish I could go back to those days one more time.

Sometimes it is easier to embrace the contradictions in life rather than choose between something you feel is objectively true and something you feel is subjectively true.

Let me grab a cane …

Press Play, Repeat: Punch Brother’s All Ashore

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

By chance the other night we were driving, no intention of going straight home but no other destination either. After dinner, I had queued up a quick playlist of “New Releases” On Google Play Music. Most of the songs were okay, but when Punch Brother’s “All Ashore” came on, mixed in with the quiet night drive and neighborhoods I had never seen before, it was perfect.

Diane didn’t find it to her tastes though she agreed with me about the quality of the song’s musicality. It has a relaxing appeal and an introspective charm that pulls you into its depths. I won’t pretend to say I know precisely what the lyricist intended with its imagery, but between the pickin’ and the singin’, I feel something deep within me stir.

I imagine many of my friends would hear this and say, “That sounds like your kind of music!” It wasn’t always though. As a kid, my dad used to drag me to various bluegrass festivals. In truth, they were little more than places for fans of that kind music to gather in their RVs and drink amongst kindred spirits. I remember being put in charge of concessions, which was great because no one cared when I grabbed a Snickers for myself.

Despite this “experience”, I didn’t take to bluegrass though I have come around more in the last five years or so.

After “All Ashore” I had to hear more of this album. A good friend of mine is a big fan of Punch Brothers, yet previous attempts to get me to listen to them didn’t. “All Ashore”, both the song and the album, was the exact opposite: for the last week+ this is the only thing I have listened to. Press play, repeat.

It is a far more progressive album that you might imagine at first listen. Take, for example, their song “Jumbo” which may or may not refer to a certain World Leader’s son of the same name:

I did a little research on this one, which led me to a truly awful review that, like all music reviews, used more words of such a size and complexity that even a philosopher would sweat at trying to get them past her editor. I didn’t have to make an account to comment though because everyone disagreed. This album is perfect and “Jumbo” is one of its best ear worms.

My absolute favorite track though is “It’s All Part of the Plan”, a rumination on power in the modern world. I enjoy music with a message and the song seems to me to be about the devil being replaced by elite businessman. Some of you out there may blush at the blatant class warfare, but I find it difficult to argue with lines like:

Write me a law and I’ll rise above
And give me hell and I’ll make a hell of a deal

Here you go:

What album(s) have you all been using to cope with 2018?


My Love for the Veil of Ignorance

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.

Picture a younger me in the earliest days of pursuing a degree in philosophy. I was hungrier then. Growing up in the Deep South, religion’s hold always slipped off my like a greased pig. When I finally “escaped” to the first university I attended, I thought I was going to find more like minded friends or that I would finally get out of my shell to show the world who I was on the inside. Instead, I found more of the same and with that realization my first exposure to honest depression. It was a chance elective that exposed me to philosophy when none of my education before had even tried. In that chance, I began to find my way out.

Introduction to why I followed philosophy complete, let’s move on to one of my favorite philosophical ideas that I frequently reference when I make decisions: American philosopher John Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance.

Per the Wikipedia entry:

It is based upon the following thought experiment: people making political decisions imagine that they know nothing about the particular talents, abilities, tastes, social class, and positions they will have within a social order. When such parties are selecting the principles for distribution of rights, positions, and resources in the society in which they will live, this “veil of ignorance” prevents them from knowing who will receive a given distribution of rights, positions, and resources in that society. For example, for a proposed society in which 50% of the population is kept in slavery, it follows that on entering the new society there is a 50% likelihood that the participant would be a slave. The idea is that parties subject to the veil of ignorance will make choices based upon moral considerations, since they will not be able to make choices based on their own self- or class-interest.

We can argue practicality for society another day. I love this idea for its practical value in my every day decision-making as a leader and manager at my job. I often have to make policy and procedure decisions, either by crafting new ones, rewriting old ones, or enforcing what is in place. Too often the debates regarding changes become bogged down in catering to every individual in our employ on an individual needs basis and we lose sight of establishing a baseline.

The idea and language behind the veil of ignorance helps me better convey that we need to make decisions based on the most neutral of employees if we want to write rules or make team-wide decisions. As an example, just because two of our workers are always late does not mean we need to redefine what “being late” means.

This doesn’t mean that I am the hard-headed type who doesn’t allow for exceptions. Using the same example, maybe they are always late because of issues getting their children to school/babysitter/daycare, etc. I am more than happy to work out ways to accommodate these situations, whenever possible, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of hours worked, coverage, or productivity. Also, as long as I cannot make the same accommodations for others.

The veil of ignorance thought experiment also helps inform me with equality/feminist concerns. Rather than use the tired “I also have a mother/daughter/sister/female relative” trope when it comes to relating to issues specific to women in our society, I do the far simpler and more human thing of imagining myself in the same situation.

Would I want less pay? Would I want to be sexually harassed? Would I want no time to recover my body or tend to a new child after giving birth? Obviously the answer to all of these questions is no.  Taking things a step further, if I were to attempt to answer the same questions from an original position behind a veil of ignorance where I have a 50/50 chance of being a female member of the society I am helping to design, then the answer is “HELL NO”. Fairness and equality are pretty simple, everyone.

Of course, where most thought experiments breakdown is when you apply them too broadly or to a society already too far out of balance. The /r/fantasy board has had a recent community-wide debate about inclusiveness and the author (whom I agreed with) unfortunately used bad statistics in an ignorant way to muddy his own points and their validity.

When it comes to my fantasy reading list, which is absolutely dominated by white male authors, if I were try to apply the more politically-oriented veil of ignorance thought experiment, I would likely read only those books of merit. However, since finding books of merit is always through the lens of “you will see books by white male authors first and foremost because they are most plentiful and popular”, then it falls on me to find ways to look beyond what I only see for its lowest common denominator popularity. That way I am not missing any really good books by authors who just don’t get the same traction because of difficulties marketing their name, face, or because their version of fantasy is not in the exact mold that publishers expect their audiences to purchase.

That doesn’t mean I think white male authors are inherently worse or that human beings are not capable of writing characters unlike themselves, it just means that I value originality and fresh perspectives and that both are hard to find in the nth book by someone who really, really, really loved Tolkien.

Don’t take this post as a: you should know/use the veil of ignorance. The great thing about humans is our diversity of thinking. You may also think philosophy is a crock of shit, to which I most humbly disagree. For me, this is exactly what I needed back in my early 20’s: a way to see the world fairly, humanely, and how I ought work toward it being. More broadly speaking, that’s what brought me to philosophy, why I still read about philosophy, and why I never shy away anymore from talking about it even as I see the other party’s eyes roll.

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